Naked City

Dancing Matt coming to town

Back in 2003, 28-year-old Matt Harding discovered that irony has its limits. At the time he was working for a company in Brisbane, Australia, writing dialog for video game characters, but had tired of all the violent shoot-'em-up games, he said, and suggested, sarcastically, that the company develop a game called Destroy All Humans. Unfortunately, the company thought it was a great idea; Harding didn't. "I … didn't want to spend two years of my life writing a game about killing everyone," he said. "I [suggested the game] as a kind of tongue-in-cheek thing, but there is no such thing as irony in video games." So, he quit his job and took off on an around-the-world trip – a sojourn that would eventually make Harding a celebrity of sorts, at least among a crowd of seemingly irreverent Web-surfers who have flocked to his site, Where the Hell Is Matt? (www.wherethehellismatt.com), to see Harding dance his way across the planet. Yes, dance.

Harding started the site as a way to keep in touch with friends and family while off traveling, in part by filming portions of the trip; halfway through his sojourn, a buddy suggested that Harding include footage of himself doing "that stupid dance you do," he recalled. So he did, eventually editing segments of his signature dance shot in 15 different countries – from Myanmar to Kenya to Mexico and New York – into a three-minute "Dancing" video that he posted on his site. It wasn't long before his video caught on and e-mails from "Dancing" fans started rolling in; Harding had become an Internet dancing star. "Just wanted to say u do a cool job!" begins one e-mail. "Love the site and keep up what ur doing because the only thing we take with us at the end of time are our memories, so go ahead and make a [ton] of them." From another, posted to the site in March: "Your Web site has opened my eyes to the world. I've now found a new reason to live and love life." Harding says that he was "surprised" by the number of responses, and that he hopes his online travelogue inspires people to get out and explore the world. "I feel strongly that Americans need to get out more and travel," he said last week. "We're too insulated and afraid of the outside world; we're fed all these images that just aren't true."

Although Harding has rejoined the video game business – he's written dialog for a Lemony Snicket game and is working on a game based on Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean – he hasn't hung up his traveling or his dancing shoes. Last week Harding hit the road again for a three-week cross-country trip that will include an Aug. 30 swing through Austin for a sunset dance on the Congress Avenue bridge – and on this stop, he says, he wants his fans to dance with him. "If this is my 15 minutes of fame, then I'm happy," he said. "It's not a bad way to go." (For up-to-date info on Harding's Austin dance, check his Web site.)

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Matt HardingInternet, Matt Harding, Where the Hell is Matt?, Dancing

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