YouTube's dancing prisoners denied new licence to thrill

With nearly 11 million hits, it is one of YouTube's most watched videos: 1,500 orange-suited inmates, plus one pony-tailed prisoner in mules and a halter-top, in a Filipino prison doing a perfectly choreographed version of the dance sequence of Michael Jackson's Thriller video.

The video of the dancing inmates at Cebu Detention and Rehabilitation Centre was uploaded to YouTube in July by Byron Garcia, a security consultant for the Cebu provincial government and the brother of the province's governor, Gwendolyn Garcia.

Michael Jackson's role is played by Crisanto Niere, with Wenjiel Resane playing "the girl"; both are on drug-trafficking charges. Most of the inmates in the video are on remand awaiting trial for alleged crimes such as murder, rape and drug trafficking.

The inmates carefully emulate every move from the Michael Jackson hit, their shoulders jerking zombie-style, heads swaying in time, clapping and swirling in a truly awesome display. One that needed a bigger audience, Mr Garcia reckoned.

The next step was to see if the prisoners would be allowed to perform at Sinulog, a popular street-music festival scheduled in Cebu next Sunday, saying it would add "something new to the traditional Sinulog presentation".

But Cebu city's mayor, Tomas Osmena, remains unmoved by the funky zombie dancing of the inmates. "I will not allow it even if Michael Jackson joins them," Mr Osmena told the Philippine News Agency. "In jail, the inmates can dance all they want."

The nine-day fiesta is organised by the Catholic Augustinian order to honour the infant Jesus with a solemn religious procession followed by a raucous street-party. It also includes a beauty pageant and a trade fair.

The Philippines is one of the most musical countries in the world: people walk around the streets singing happily in the normal course of the day, and Filipino bands are famous for their skill in mimicking top tunes.

Mr Garcia introduced dancing in April 2006 as part of a new rehabilitation programme at the prison in this resort city. Inmates now rehearse for hours each day and have performed dance versions of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" as well as several Village People tracks. In the plan proposed to Mr Osmena, to make sure none of the Thriller stars made a break for freedom, the show would be performed at the city's sports complex, and just 100 prisoners would be dancing, with a guard assigned to each detainee.

Mr Garcia had hoped that, by allowing the inmates to be in Sinulog, the city could showcase the success of its rehabilitation programme. "By showing these highly disciplined inmates, perhaps we might just be giving hope that Cebu is not just about the mardi gras, but rather, Cebu is about leadership and good governance," he said.

The prisoners were expected to be tough competition at the festival for the Lumad Basakonon group, which has dominated the free interpretation category of Sinulog for two years.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'