We all have that ONE friend – the one that cannot dance. No he can’t do the hustle, the shuffle, the robot. He can’t bhangra, lohri or salsa to save his cat’s life. Indians sometimes refer to him as ‘Pappu’. We don’t know why Pappu CAN’T dance (saala) .Maybe it’s because he was born with two left feet or a tail that throws him off balance. But we’ve known to love and care for the Pappus in our lives. However, let’s forget about poor Pappu for a while.
Let’s direct our limited span of attention elsewhere – to Matt Harding. Nice name, sounds like a cute guy, yes? Ever imagine someone becoming internationally famous for his BAD DANCING? This is exactly where Matt Harding comes in.
One of the earliest YouTube celebrities, Matt Harding’s claim to fame were the videos of him dancing badly around the world. These clips were sent via chainmail and passed on through blogs a whole year and a half before YouTube even existed. Initially meant to be a way for his family to know about his travels, he edited and posted a video of him dancing in 14 countries into a 2:45 clip. This was way back in 2005. In all the shots, Matt stands center frame doing his signature ‘happy go lucky’ dance. In the midst of the Onion Domes of Russia and the Angkor Wat of Cambodia, Matt does his happy jig with reckless abandon. His first video got over 20,000 hits a day.
Before turning into an internet sensation, Matt was a videogame designer/ software developer with Activision in California. His infamous dance was born when he began to annoy his friend to come for lunch at work. Years later, when they were travelling, the same friend asked him to dance in Vietnam, just for kicks.
Word got around and Matt turned, as he says in his own words ‘quasi famous’. About this time, Stride gum agreed to sponsor his next trip and for the next six months he travelled to 36 different countries, doing what he did worst – dancing. Only this time, he was with walruses in the Antarctic islands, with Buddhist monks from Laos and even inside the world’s only indoor ski resort in Dubai.
The third video was conceptualized after Matt’s inbox was flooded with emails from fans and this time around he called on his fans to dance with him around the world. 14 months and 42 countries later, Matt danced with fans from cities so diverse, ranging from Istanbul to Stockholm. People from countries such as Fiji, Yemen, Spain, Madagascar, Ireland and Argentina celebrated the joys of bad dancing with Matt. See this video for instance and try spotting Matt in it. I had to watch it a couple of times because it’s very difficult to spot him amongst his fans.
What makes these videos so special is not the fact that this guy is dancing in over 70 countries without a care in the world. It’s the simplicity and the innocence of the idea behind it. A man with nothing but a digital camera showing off his moves. Kids in Rwanda join in while he dances, the monks in Laos look with slight amusement, the waves in Tongatapu overpower him, In Micronesia and Palau he even tries to dance underwater.
Over the years, Matt has used his growing popularity to good use. He was invited to South Africa during the 2010 world cup to learn the ‘Diski’ dance, which is inspired by five football moves. Matt dances in choreographed moves in various locations around South Africa.
As a joke, about two years ago, Matt Harding sarcastically ‘’revealed’’ to the world that his videos were ‘fake’ and prove that all the YouTube spammers, skeptics and cynics that they were ‘right’ all along. He convinced everyone that he was an actor hired by an ad agency called Buzz Brain, he even went as far as telling the audience that the rest of the dancers you see in the third video are in fact animatronic puppets programmed to dance badly with Matt. Thankfully, a month later, at the 2008 MacWorld convention he put all rumors to rest about his ‘’hoax is a hoax’’ trick.
Over the years, Matt has inspired many ‘Where the hell is…’ videos and parodies from fellow YouTube fans. This is proof that YouTube works on the mantra of ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ to a great deal. Also, as another feather to his diverse cap, Matt was even in a Visa commercial!
Matt is currently working on a new video and this time, he is FINALLY learning how to dance; incorporating different dances from around the world. If you wish to be a part of this project, follow this link and sign up if you think your dancing skills are as bad as Matt’s!