Monday, June 29, 2009

Music Is the Language of the Universe

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:

6 comments:

lynn said...

I love watching this tribute. :)

MmeBenaut said...

Robyn, this has to be one of the most extraordinary things I've ever seen. So many thoughts came to me while I watched: the conversion of the pimps, drug dealers, thieves, child molesters and murderers into a swaying, reverent and fluid "oneness". The incredible distance between the environment for prisoners in "Shawshank" and those on this clip. Makes me wonder whether this is what the world might look like if we all had female presidents. Thank you for finding this gem.

MmeBenaut said...

Oh, and the transvestites dressed in female uniform! And the influence of Islam even ...

Scout said...

Lynn, there are at least 36 different videos on youtube of these people.

Mme Benaut, I think those were actual female prisoners. There are other videos from the prison with closeups of women. And there are Christian songs, as well, with a mass conducted by a visiting priest. Very interesting stuff.

Shan said...

Wow. I can't believe I've never heard about this group before. Oh yeah, I didn't even know MJ had passed until I wondered why the radio was playing non-stop songs of his. The dj said " In case you've been living under a rock...." Apparently I had been because I yelled out "WHAT??!!!!" and scared my boys in the van. Baha

Thanks for showing this to us. I had a range of thoughts as well. One of them was "Should they be having fun in prison?" But then I thought that wasn't very nice. Very cool!

RoverHaus said...

I love this youtube clip. I love the music. I love the dance. But most of all, I love the creativity and thought in bringing music and dance to a bunch of guys who needed something beautiful in their lives...you know, the whole 'bloom where your planted' thing.

Does that make me weird?