Cebu dancing inmates rock for Michael Jackson memorial

Posted at 06/25/10 12:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine prisoners who became famous for dancing to Michael Jackson tunes are to give a tribute performance to mark the first anniversary of the death of the King of Pop.

The high-security Cebu prison will throw its gates open to a limited number of members of the public for the show on Saturday, a year and a day after Jackson's death, the provincial government said.

"It will be a sort of a tribute," said Amor Sarmiento, an aide to Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia.

Dressed in tangerine jumpsuits, the some 1,500 convicted murderers, rapists, and drug dealers at the prison became an Internet phenomenon as they performed the zombie dance from Jackson's "Thriller" music video.

The performance, posted on the video-sharing website YouTube by the jail authorities in July 2007, quickly became one of the most watched clips on the Internet and has so far registered more than 42 million hits.

A former security consultant at the jail, Byron Garcia -- a brother of the governor -- came up with the idea in 2006 of using dance as a way to rehabilitate the prisoners and give them a break from the daily grind of life behind bars.

Saturday's one-hour show will kick off at 3 p.m. (0700 GMT) and feature a repertoire expected to include some of Jackson's biggest hits, said Sarmiento.

Two buses will ferry an audience expected to number at least 300 people to the hilltop prison and take them back to Cebu government house afterwards, she added.