Jun 21, 2012 - Ancestry

Dancing with 23andMe

The dance is sort of a gnome-like jig – all knees and elbows and no hint of cool – but where Matt Harding gets you is in his pure unabashed release of happiness.

As you watch, a smile creeps across your face. You can’t help yourself.

For almost a decade, Matt has cobbled together the most unlikely of careers – making a video series in which, as he says, he “travels around the world dancing badly.”

The series, called “Where the Hell is Matt?”, started innocently enough when he was backpacking through Vietnam in 2003 after quitting his job as a video game programmer. On a lark, his buddy suggested that Matt, “do that stupid dance you do.” His friend videotaped him doing his silly shuffle next to a busy traffic circle with people walking by. There was no intent to share it with anyone but the video wound up on YouTube and went viral.

Fast-forward nine years, and Matt’s quirky videos have attracted almost 78 million views. More than 40 million people saw his last one, and over the last two years, he’s traveled to dozens and dozens of countries shooting his next video that he released this week.

As he was putting together the final touches on this latest video, Matt partnered up with 23andMe for another short little film. (Editor’s note: This video is no longer available online.)

In this one he’s meeting and dancing with strangers like in his other videos, but this time each person he’s dancing with – in Tucson, Colorado Springs, Minneapolis and San Francisco – has something in common with Matt. They each share some DNA.

Using 23andMe’s Relative Finder, Matt connected with distant cousins around the country. A few wanted to meet him in person so he crisscrossed the country in a very few days, and was introduced to relatives he never knew he had. Then, he danced with them.

“Having these people who I’ve just gotten to go around and meet, whom I’m related to, is really amazing,” said Matt. “Somewhere back on our family tree we have a common ancestor… I would’ve never known that without the DNA.”

For Matt this is where he sees the overlap with what he’s been doing over the years.

“It’s all about connectedness,” he said. “It’s all about seeing what we have in common. With 23andMe you realize that we all share the same roots, the same origin if you go back far enough. And yet we are all unique.”

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