A world-renowned dancing champ, coach, director, and basically one of the most prominent figures in the Philippine dancing industry, Chips Beltran has taken on a mission to put Filipino talent on the map.
In addition to being a member and the team captain of UPeepz, a two-time World Hip Hop Dance Champion and the first Filipino crew to have emerged victorious in Hollywood’s World of Dance, he’s also a mentor who leads classes and coaches dance crews both here in the country and abroad. Get to know Chips Beltran more as he sat with us to tell his stories of success, as well as his aspirations for his team.
How and when did UPeepz start?
“All of our OG members and choreographers came from University of the Philippines, Diliman,” Chips said. He then explained that they used to be part of another team before deciding to start one they could call their own. After testing the waters by taking part in inter-school competitions, the team went on to join the Filipino noontime show It’s Showtime, where they got the traction that paved the way for them to try their luck on the international stage. This was around 2014.
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While UPeepz was originally purely composed of maroon-blooded talents, an international competition they planned to join called for the need to expand their crew, hence their decision to open the doors to non-UP students. “When we started competing, we only got our friends wanted to join– some from Ateneo, some from La Salle,” Chips added.
What made you want to dance?
Chips attributed his first encounter with dancing to three things: a supportive mom, the desire to be excused out of classes for dance practices, and… girls.
He said that he was one of those kids whose mom would make you attend different workshops like karate, center for pop, and whatnot. He also revealed that he was one of those students who frequently got invited to perform in different school events, which is, as we know it, every grade-schooler’s dream life as it allows us to avoid the classroom and do something fun.
“I enrolled in all of those,” he said about the workshops, before adding, “And it was only until Grade 6 when my friends from Claret invited me to a join street dance workshop.”
As it would turn out, he and his friends were the only boys in a class of 50– the rest were all girls. Coming from an all-boys school, this workshop gave him the opportunity to have a change of environment. “Natutuwa kami kasi parang, huy, tayo lang ang lalaki dito,” Chips quipped, amused by his recollection. The rest is history.
What’s the greatest moment you’ve had in your career?
“There’s a lot,” Chips said. “Every competition is a really different experience.” Citing the most notable ones, he talked about the first time UPeepz was crowned winner at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship in 2016. “It was really surreal. I didn’t even know how to react. When my team was already jumping around the stage, I was just at the back. Parang di talaga ako makapaniwala na world champs na kami.”
He said that when the team got home from the venue, they collectively struggled to make sense of what was happening. Everyone was ecstatic. Their phones were erupting with Facebook notifications and phone calls. “It was an instant change, for starters.”
Another big moment for Chips is their second stint at the HHI the following year, this time to defend their crown. UPeepz pulled off a back-to-back, and he revealed that the response they got was even wilder than the first time.
Chips then went on about VPeepz’s championship experience on the third season of World of Dance, an American reality competition executive produced by Jennifer Lopez. For those who are not in the know, VPeepz is UPeepz’s junior division crew, also handled by Chips himself. He admitted that it was a shocking win for the team because one of their competitors, an all-girl crew, got J-Lo in tears.
Lastly, Chips cited UPeepz’s turn to take the World of Dance stage during the show’s subsequent season last year.
“Different experiences,” Chips reiterated about his career’s greatest moments. “I can’t really pinpoint just one.”
How was the experience working with VPeepz?
“It was actually pretty chill compared to that with me dancing and coaching at the same time. But the pressure was different.” Chips made a comparison between working with the senior team and the younger ones, and noted that with the adults, things were easier because they knew, individually, what was needed of them.
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“With the kids, syempre mga bata ‘yan– ‘yung energy niyan mataas. May parents na kasama. There a lot of factors coming to play that I had to think about every day. And it was the first time of us doing World of Dance so everything was new.”
“But what I like about VPeepz is that anything I say is talagang gagawin nila. When you’re teaching kids kasi, you’re also a part of their growth eh. You’re a fundamental part of their foundational years, so aside from the pressure of the competition itself, there’s also the pressure of what do I teach these kids beyond dance.”
Given the immense pressure he had to deal with as VPeepz’s team captain, Chips credited his assistants as well as the parents of the crew members offering the kids moral support for making his job less hard.
At this point of your career, is there anyone in the dance community you look up to?
Without so much as a hint of hesitation, Chips said that he still has a lot of idols. He dropped two names: Brian Puspos and Keone Madrid, and explained that these dance personalities have inspired him from the get-go up to this day.
Recalling his first meeting with Brian, he talked about his first international invitation to lead a dance camp in New Zealand in 2017. “Nagulat ako kasi kasama sa lineup si Brian Puspos sa camp na ‘yon, so I was really trying to keep my cool para di ako maging fanboy kasi pareho kaming faculty ‘dun e.” He added that in the short time the two of them got to bond with one another, he could tell that Brian was such a nice person.
“Si Keone ‘di ko pa name-meet personally, pero sana soon,” Chips quipped.
How has the dance community been during the pandemic?
“Not gonna lie, it’s really hard,” Chips began. While he acknowledges that the struggle is experienced by most industries and not just the dance industry, he went on to detail the sad situation of the community. From the shortage of gigs, to the decline of the number of students enrolling in their dance classes, to the lack of competitions, dancing is one profession that has felt the harrowing effects of COVID.
Chips added, “Ang dami kong kilalang dancers na nalungkot, na-depress, nag-change ng profession, naghanap ng ibang jobs, so the pandemic is really hurting the industry.”
However, Chips assured us that just like other affected industries, they, too, have adjusted to the new normal. He said, “The only way to go forward was to adjust and to think of more creative ways on how to make dance sustainable. And I think that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make real classes online. Work, coaching, even shoots and shows online, so if you want to look at the silver lining, it’s kind of easier in terms of– kunyari– may raket ka or may show ka. You don’t have to go to a venue, you just have to rehearse via zoom.”
Any advice for the young ones?
One thing Chips wants the young dreamers to keep in mind is that in these difficult times, they’re not alone in their struggles.
Another thing he wants them to remember is to never give up on their dreams, and work towards their goals wisely. Expounding on this, he said, “You have to plan our life wisely. You have to have backup plans– robust backup plans.” He relayed his story of making a deal with his mom of showing her a UP diploma before pursuing what he truly wanted. “It gave me the confidence to pursue what I want, because meron akong fallback. Well, that’s just me.”
“Don’t stop learning. Find the right mentor, that’s very, very important.” He stressed that if you don’t have the right mentor, you’ll likely be lost. He also emphasized the importance of being a metaphorical sponge, that just because you’re gaining followers and picking up popularity doesn’t mean you should stop learning.
Lastly, he said, “It’s okay to feel inspired, but channel that inspiration into action.”
When asked what was next for Chips Beltran and his crew, he admitted that most of his work as of the moment is focused on making sure his members are coping up with the pandemic well. There is no telling yet when things are gonna be back to normal again. As the head and the heart of the UPeepz family, the best thing he can do is to be there, albeit virtually, by his team’s side so when live events, face-to-face workshops, and dance competitions resume, they will come back stronger than ever.
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