Excerpts from cnn.com:
CEBU, Philippines (CNN) — Amid the tropical heat of a Philippine prison, convicted murderers, rapists and drug dealers on Saturday paid tribute to Michael Jackson with a reprise of their YouTube dance hit, “Thriller.”
A rendition of Jackson’s 1980s smash hit by prisoners at the Cebu Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the central Philippines garnered more than 24 million views since 2007, when prison supervisor Byron Garcia first uploaded it to the video-sharing Web site.
Dancing was introduced at the prison in 2007, as a means of rehabilitating prisoners at a facility once notorious for its gang problem.
He said it gives them a renewed sense of worth and confidence, breaking them of their violent ways. He is convinced his prison is a model for prison authorities everywhere, an example of how to crack the plague of violent prison gangs.
“It brought back their self esteem. We have happy inmates now — we don’t want to go back to the old jail where we had mad, sad inmates,” he said.
In searing temperatures, 1,400 men in bright orange tracksuits performed the 15-minute “Thriller” routine perfectly. They rehearsed for 10 hours the previous day, finally stopping at 3 a.m. to rest ahead of the show.
The superbly-choreographed moves, energy and obvious enthusiasm of the prisoners had the audience — swelled by journalists from around the world — captivated the audience. Several inmates even invited people from the crowd to dance with them.
“I never thought I would ever find myself dancing with a prisoner,” one excited local said.
A local journalist even described the performance as Asia’s best way of paying tribute to Jackson.
Garcia, who says the prison has witnessed no violence in three years, paid tribute to the performers. “I’m so proud of them,” he said. “They got the dance exactly right.”