IF HE wasn’t in London working, former Sun.Star Cebu sports editor Jack Biantan would have wanted to become an inmate at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), if only to dance under the choreography of Travis Payne.
Because if there is one achievement the inmates have, it is to be coached by and dance with Michael Jackson’s choreographer of 18 years. Payne taught them The Drill, which MJ made popular in his music videos, and made them international stars, not individually but collectively.
Unlike MJ’s backup dancers in his aborted concert “This Is It,” the inmates didn’t audition. Michael Jackson had seen them dance to his songs on YouTube and loved their performances. Through surrogate Payne, MJ got to use them for his documentary.
The inmates were traveled to, given “This Is It” shirts that they wore in the video, taught the moves, and found real connection to MJ through Payne. They had built up their credentials as dancing inmates, thanks largely to Capitol consultant on security Byron Garcia.
Their dance moves have taken a new level. With Payne, an oohlala Afro-American, and two other oohlala Hollywood male dancers, as lead, the CPDRC inmates couldn’t dance below par. Besides, they were being filmed by a Hollywood crew. They were going to appear in the DVD version of Michael Jackson’s documentary “This Is It.”
Byron, who serves as provincial warden, deserves the credit for bringing international recognition of the inmates. He is acknowledged in the opening scene and delivers the line, “Okay, inmates of CPDRC, this is it. Atteeeention!” The scene cuts to Payne and the rest.
Georgia Osmeña was the link between Hollywood and Kalunasan, where the CPDRC is. A friend of hers brought Payne and company to Cebu during the Sinulog and she made the introductions to Byron.
In her account published in Cebu Daily News, she wrote that the inmates were “polite, respectful and very disciplined” and “eager to learn the dance.” The rehearsals took only a day, Jan. 18, and filming immediately began the next day.
“I felt we were in a studio lot of Sony Pictures in Culver City, California. It was hard to believe that we were in Kalunasan, Cebu City with the dancing stars and the dancing inmates,” she wrote.
The production involved 1,500 inmates who in those two days, felt pride to be part of an MJ work. After the wrap, some of them asked Payne to dance to “Dangerous” and so Payne got a group of inmates and did the moves together.
“Everyone was in step. Everyone knew what to do. I cried. This was too good to be true,” she wrote. She said Payne didn’t treat the inmates any differently and had fun dancing the “Thriller” with them and thanked each inmate.
The video makes us proud of Cebu, Byron and the CPDRC inmates most especially, that they were able to execute moves that we saw only on MJ’s music videos. You feel the inmates’ pride too. Byron has made them feel good about themselves regardless of the transgressions they have done or may have done outside the walls of CPDRC.
By the way, the bald guy who carries the Martin Luther King poster is not an inmate or a member of Payne’s dance crew. He is Will Devaughn, a Pinoy commercial model and former PBB housemate. They could have asked Jack Biantan to do it, you know.