Cebu Province, Philippines: More than 1500 "Dancing Inmates" from Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), a maximum security prison, were treated to a visit by Michael Jacksons long-time choreographer Travis Payne and dancers Daniel Celebre and Dres Reid to learn performances from THIS IS IT.
The inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) may already be behind a high-wall compound surrounded by armed guards, barbed-wire fences and thick iron gates, but they are still currently on the wanted list of million of people online.
Instead of crime, these inmates are wanted for their attention-grabbing dance presentations made popular thru the Internet video site YouTube.com by security consultant Byron Garcia.
Since then, international exposure broadened and the Cebu inmates got TV recognition that came in the form of international cable news channel CNN. The TV news giant earlier covered the inmates' newest tribute to the late Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 - June 25, 2009) in the form of the MJ's single "They Don't Care About Us," directed by Filipino director A.F. Beneza.
This latest tribute, together with the inmates' "Thriller" cover, was added as special video features in the This Is It DVD and Blu-Ray disc. This Is It is a doucumentary fetauring the rehearsals for what could have been his "final concert" in London. The concert did not push through because of his untimely demise.
WILL DEVAUGHN IN THE LIMELIGHT. Actor and model Will Devaughn also had a part in the dance number when he entered the middle of the performance carrying a poster of African-American civil-rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.
In a phone interview with PEP managing editor Karen Pagsolingan yesterday, January 28, Will talked about his experience being part of such big and wonderful performance.
"Grounded" was how Will described MJ's choreographer Travis Payne. "I was really surprised how humble he is," he said. "I also met the two other guys [principal dancers Dreis Reed and Daniel Celebre] and they were so humble and grounded and easy to talk to and get along with. They're also spiritual as well. I mean, they have this aura that exudes out of them and envelops them. It was really great working with them."
The inmates, on the other hand, had a different effect on the actor-model.
"Nagulat ako when I met them!" he exclaimed. "They were not like inmates! They were just people who were definitely enjoying the moment that they were given the chance to. They were just loving every moment that they had visitors and of course, the Michael Jackson on DVD. A part will be filmed with them in it and they are now part of history. It was a very beautiful thing that is why everyone was happy and had so much energy and love for each other."
Will proceeded to reveal to PEP that he was big fan of Michael Jackson, even to the point of learning how to do the moonwalk!
But when asked about the reason behind him carrying the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the performance, he turned serious and explained, "The thing is, Martin was all about unity and freedom. That [the song] was what Michael Jackson was referring to—love, freedom, and unity."
BEING A PART OF HISTORY. Will really had no idea that he was about to become part of pop history. During the Sinulog Festival, he was contacted by his manager Dondon Monteverde and asked whether he would like to be a part of an international project.
"It was a secret and I did not even know what I was getting myself into!" laughed Will. But upon realizing that he would be part of the dancing inmates' number together with Travis Payne, he was elated.
"We all bonded," added Will. "And at the first night, Payne actually told me that I would be good for the flag-bearer part. I was like, 'Are you serious?' I was in awe!"
The next day, Will practiced and eventually became one of the people who made the image of Michael Jackson great yet again.
With the production over, does Will have any plans of becoming a dancer as well? "I like dancing freely and I like to do what my body likes," he said. "Well, I guess we'll see and hopefully be given the chance."
Will stars alongside Judy Ann Santos in the ABS-CBN medical drama Habang May Buhay which will air starting February 1. He has also started taping the episode"Gimik" for Your Song.
BACKGROUND ON THE CEBU DANCING INMATES. According to http://www.byrongarcia.com, Byron Garcia is the son of former Cebu Governor Pablo Garcia and the brother of present Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia. The management graduate had "every opportunity to pursue a comfortable corporate career, but he instead chose to help rehabilitate the inmates of the CPDRC" when he was assigned as Capitol Security Consultant when sister Gwen assumed office back in 2004.
Dancing as a form of penal discipline has done more than just rehabilitate the inmates—it turned them into unlikely international stars.
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