It’s not a surprise that the talks surrounding mental health, being burned out, finding creative outlets, creative passions, and others alike have been a staple topic throughout the years, more so during the global pandemic that we are still in. We take a deep dive with three of our Chuzi pioneers on how dance has helped them and their mental health over the past year that we all had to go through.

We’ll be talking to Chips Beltran, the director, founder, and coach of UPeepz, VPeepz, and Lil Peepz. Lloyd Marcaida, the current dance master of the UP Streetdance Club and a trainee of The Crew, and Jhoey Zulueta, the founder and creative director of JAZ Up.

Kindly introduce yourself briefly for our readers

Chips: “Chips Beltran here. Director, Founder, and Coach of UPeepz, VPeepz, LilPeepz, and The Peepz. Five-Time World Champ and NBC World of Dance Seasons 3 and 4.”

Lloyd: “Hi I am Lloyd Marcaida! I’ve been dancing for 9 years now and I am currently the Dance Master of the UP Streetdance Club and trainee of The Crew PH.”

Jhoey: “Hey! I am Jhoey Alcober Zulueta! I was the first Mindanaoan to join a dance-reality TV show, placed 2nd Runner Up in ABS-CBN’s Stardance, founder and creative director of JAZ Up Danz Crew, and the Mother of the House of Tatiana (the only recognized Kiki House in Mindanao).”

How have you been the last 15 months of the global pandemic?

Chips: “Not good not gonna lie. Bored. But at the same time, relaxed, anxious, but at the same time excited about the littlest things (chances of going out for a show for example) that I took for granted before.”

Lloyd: “Surprisingly fine despite the challenges of online classes and training. I try to explore other things that are really outside my comfort zone- another way to also distract myself from reality.”

Jhoey: “Since the pandemic began, life has been turned upside down. I transitioned from being able to dance at events and produce shows to becoming an online seller, content creator, and talk show host. To earn and survive, I needed to learn new talents, and with the support of my friends and encouragement from my family, I was able to adjust to our current position. Learning to tie-dye shirts, learn technical internet production, and create material for my social media accounts has been a struggle but a rewarding experience for me. As an influencer and entrepreneur, my program, Sunday’s Best with JAZ, and my clothing line, JAZ Clo, opened the road for me to develop and get to know myself and my brand.”

What have you been feeling or experiencing (mentally, physically, or emotionally) during the height of the lockdown and where we are now?

Chips: “Very inconsistent emotionally as well. Basically, I’m just home so there’s no way I am usually physically tired. I actually think that my capabilities physically have declined. Mentally I am sometimes idle, sometimes relaxed, but most of the time anxious. Now I’m pretty chill.”

Lloyd: “I feel so frustrated and helpless. I feel so tired to the point that I think I am slowly losing my passion for things I used to be so passionate about. This whole quarantine thing makes me even more tired physically even if most of the time I stay in bed. Thankfully, I have my family with me most of the time, and we try our best to be there looking out for each other.”

Jhoey:”I was mentally exhausted, physically stagnant, and emotionally in desperate need over the long weeks and months of lockdown. I was pushed to my limits and forced to think outside the box to survive. And now, as I reflect on those times, I realize that I can grow, do more, and share more with others as a result of the lessons I learned from my Online Talk Show, where I was able to meet some of the world’s greatest performers, coaches, and dance icons, which has re-calibrated my mind to believe that I should continue to hone our craft while remaining open to new ideas.”

What is it about dance that gravitated you towards it to help cope with what you were going through?

Chips: “Dance has been my escape ever since. It helps me forget about my problems. However, during the pandemic, it has been a constant battle between me and dance. I haven’t choreographed for myself in a while. There haven’t been dance classes, coaching work, gigs, competitions, for a while that I was so used to having. Oftentimes I find myself starting some choreo but end up not finishing personal work. However, I’m still thankful that Peepz has enough work to make me get up and move.

Even if dance is inconsistent right now in my life, it will always give me confidence, excitement, and calmness.”

Lloyd: “To be honest, I never danced at home because of the limited space and privacy but due to online training, I have no choice but to commit. At first, this online training seemed so pretentious as dance, by nature, wasn’t built for that kind of set-up at all. But thankfully, the people and the environment of the group I am part of were fun and very healthy making it more bearable and enjoyable. I think this set-up enabled me to unlock some dance details I never paid attention to back then as right now, we are more of individual dancers. It made me push more and learn more.”

Jhoey: “Dance is life – it’s not just a passion or talent for me but a way of life. Dance was everything for me, from being my booster to my relaxer when stressed, dance has comforted me in downtimes, gave me a sense of security as I watch the world suffer during this pandemic. Coping up doesn’t have to be mental only, but physically as well. You have to move, you have to rekindle that burning passion to innovate and reset your mind that the world will not stop if you stop. Yes, saying it is easy but simply moving even just your foot to dance and groove it out will make a huge difference rather than just staying still.”

Take us through what happens on a day when you decide to dance and be creative.

Chips: “Usually when I do get inspired, or find a really dope song, I jam here in my spot. Sometimes I record myself and assess. Oftentimes I just go. Whenever there’s a grand idea that comes to mind, I would immediately tell my friends and share the hype (just like Yearly) and plan right away for execution. These ideas come once in a blue moon so when they do, I make sure it happens.”

Lloyd: “I am not the type to just dance whenever that’s why this process was always the hardest part for me as a dancer. I think I try to make up my mind and heart first before anything else as I hate the feeling of dancing when you don’t even know your purpose. By the time I’m set, I just shuffle and let the music player play songs from the playlist I want to choreograph. I try to make my dance feel and look natural on me. I also try to slip away from my own doubts and pressure.”

Jhoey: “The day I started to dance again was a moment of rebirth. It was like living and breathing again with the same air I used to enjoy. Moving to new beats and experiencing the heat and sweating it out made me realize I never lost anything at all but I gained more as I moved with the music. We all know that we differ in our creative processes but for me, I follow current trends but put my own JAZ into it. I never left my brand alone; I even brought my dance family to join me as I move and be alive again. This is my brand, innovative, adaptive, and leaving no one behind.”

How do you feel at the end of the said day?

Chips: “Excited and fired up. Physically tired but mostly realigned with my goals, passions, and commitment to dance.”

Lloyd: “It’s very different on all the days that I try but most of the time I feel frustrated as I am really a team dancer like I’m used to dancing with other people on stage like in competitions and performances. But at the end of the day, I try not to be hard on myself and I’d always say “Great job” as not everyone had the same opportunity and drive to even move on the day I did.”

Jhoey: “Well, the feeling will never be the same as before. It will never be like the thrill of stepping up onto the stage, hearing the shouts of your supporters and community members, and feeling the energy of each other on stage. But being able to move and capture moments with your dance family erased the thoughts of being alone. They were with me all these times and they never left me as I went along my journey during this pandemic. It may take you a lot of courage to dance again, but you will gain everything or more when you move.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your journey with regards to mental health & well-being and dance during the pandemic?

Chips: “It’s okay not to dance if you don’t feel like it. Do something else. Play, watch a movie, talk to friends, work out, sleep, eat, cook, whatever. Especially if you are a dancer. It will always come back. Take this time to relax and find your heart in dance where it used to be. Free. Fresh. Exciting.

Do not feel pressured by people who always post up videos. Support them when you feel inspired. Everyone has their own journey/navigation through this pandemic. There was a time that I unfollowed a lot of international dancers that didn’t really matter to me or whom I didn’t know personally (except for three: Keone, Brian, and Chris).

It helped my mental health and cleansed my timeline from all the hustle and chaos. Once I feel like moving again, that’s when I hyperfocus on my dance (unless there’s work). Nevertheless, everyone is experiencing anxiety and uncertainty. Dance and music will always be there. For the longest time, the feeling of competitiveness died down so just enjoy the opportunity we have now on self-growth at your own pace.”

Lloyd: “I think in everything you do, dance or not, there’s always a reason or a purpose that keeps you well-driven and passionate about things despite the current situation we are all in. Always remember that. Lastly, self first- there will be off and bad days but never take all the blame as you are just a human being as well. Rest, and bounce back.”

Jhoey: “Our mental health is as important as our physical health. We have to know when to pause but never stop, when to become numb but never lose the sense of touch, and when to be alone but always keep in touch with our loved ones.

Yes, it is okay not to be okay but the world will never stop when you do. You just have to reset your mind, train it and open it to possibilities, changes, and challenges. You might think that it is difficult, but you are more than what you think. At the end of the day, you will always tie your own shoes because no one will know how secure it is like you do.

Let loose and sweat it out, the four corners of our homes are enough to show what you are as a performer. And as you move with life, follow your groove, and put your flavor on it, we are not competing on stage, we are setting the beat for our own lives.”

It’s safe to say that whoever you are and wherever you are in your life, it is always a good idea to take a step back and pause for a while, and recharge. We’re all conditioned to always hustle and go at a fast pace to reach our dreams and goals in life, but we often forget to slow down and take a break. It’s those small moments of being in a state of calm that we can often make reasonable decisions, so never forget to check in on yourself when you’re feeling a certain way. Talk to your friends, coaches, teammates, and everyone around you and see if they’re ok as well.