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Michael Jackson's choreographer for 18 years, Travis Payne, was in the Philippines recently to teach the renowned inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) the steps to the King of Pop's "The Drill" and "They Don't Care About Us." The performance, immortalized on video and currently making waves on the net, serves as a tribute piece for the late Michael Jackson.
In a January 25 interview on CNN's The Joy Behar Show, Payne discussed his desire to go to the Philippines and work on a number with the inmates. He explained that Jackson enjoyed watching them perform through their YouTube channel.
"We first learned of these prisoners from the Cebu prefecture in the Philippines [when] one of Michael's fans sent me a link and they were doing "Thriller". I showed it to Michael and he loved it. He just got such a kick out of it. Imagine 1,500 people moving in unison to his music... It's great. All of the things we had done over the years with computer-generated images, they were actually doing."
"I knew that once Michael passed, we would be looking for opportunities to sort of reach out and be with his fans. It just hit me like a ton of bricks. We should go to the Philippines, because he loved it. He loved the area to perform in, but he also loved seeing the prisoners. Sony was able to work it out... so we found ourselves there."
Payne, together with two of Jackson's dancers, Dres Reid and Daniel Celebre, set out to Cebu on January 17 and 18 to choreograph a number for and dance with the inmates in the video.
SPOT.ph got to chat with Ernest Escaler, who organized the latest Michael Jackson project, about some production secrets and details of the performance. Also, check out the exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the production.
Travis Payne expressed his desire to work with the inmates some time after the passing of Michael Jackson. He said that he asked for Sony's help and ended up in Cebu, but how did all this really come about?
We planned this last December... I was asked by Sony Pictures to organize [this performance] for the launch of the DVD and Blu-Ray edition of "This Is It." We had to keep it quiet because they wanted to premiere this event on CNN [originally with] Anderson Cooper. [But since he's] in Haiti, it was premiered on The Joey Behar Show.
(Escaler is a good friend of Sony Pictures Senior-Vice President/Worldwide Publicity Fritz Friedman, with whom he went to the Ateneo.)