Inmates Get Into A V-Formation And What Happens Next Is Unexpected

The dance program at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines has been YouTube-famous for nearly a decade. They first burst onto the viral scene in 2007 with an epic recreation of the famous choreography from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” music video. That video currently has over 60 million views. Among the video’s fans was longtime Michael Jackson choreographer, Travis Payne. In 2010, Travis journeyed to Cebu along with two dancers, Daniel Celebre and Dres Reid, to work with the prisoners on a dance routine based on the newly released This Is It concert film.

Beginning with a head feint towards “Bad,” the music segues into, appropriately enough, “They Don’t Really Care About Us.” A fiercely personal song for Jackson, recently leaked emails from Sony executives suggest that the song was deliberately mired in controversy and torpedoed before its release in order to diminish its potential impact. A Spike Lee-directed music video for the song, shot in an actual American prison, featured real scenes of police brutality and hate crimes and was the most political work Michael Jackson ever produced. It was banned from television and the song languished in relative obscurity until recent events turned it into something of a protest song.

The martial sound of the track lends itself well to the power of the scene; hundreds of orange-suited prisoners dancing in unison, as the lyrics denounce abuses of power that are so prevalent around the world today. Even realizing that so many of the men in the video are in prison for terrible crimes, it’s important to recognize the power that dance and music can have in bringing people together for a greater purpose. The whole point of this program is to help these prisoners learn to act as a part of a community, to be social instead of antisocial. We could all probably do with a bit more of that.


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