This might be old news to some of you, but it's new to me. Prisoners in the Philippines, some of them convicted of very serious crimes, dance as part of a daily regimen of discipline and exercise, and the program has cut down on jail violence, drug use and a general feeling of hopelessness.
I stumbled on a video tribute to Michael Jackson at Salon, and I thought it was one of the most unusual things I'd ever seen. And I wondered if these prisoners were being forced to dance against their will.
But after doing a little digging, I have now learned the prisoners in the prison in Cebu, Philippines audition for this group, and they spend up to four hours a day in rehearsal. Their dancing troupe started out as an exercise class and turned into a dance class with a visiting choreographer, and now they have quite a repertoire. A NY Times article here explains it all.
A security consultant for the prison system, Byron Garcia, has uploaded their performances, which they give to audiences from the outside, to YouTube. Here is a short film that uses one of my favorite scenes from Shawshank Redemption to help explain why this program is so successful:
And now for the Michael Jackson tribute with 1,500 prisoners performing: