In an exclusive interview with MEGA Man, these renowned Filipino hip-hop coaches shared how they got their start and gave advice to the next generation of dancers in the country
In the thriving rhythm of the Philippines’ hip-hop dance culture, there exists a league of mentors worthy of our attention. These coaches, masters of their craft and beacons of wisdom, are tirelessly sculpting the path to glory and constantly striving to ignite the fire within aspiring dancers across the nation. Take a front-row seat as we delve into the worlds of these three esteemed gentlemen as they recount their humble beginnings and share tips for young artists yearning to conquer this fiercely competitive field.
MJ’s journey into the world of dance can be traced back to 2011, when his mom, as he described it, “kind of forced” him to establish a team to compete for their branch. In that pivotal moment, he realized he needed a bigger stage. “From being an audience [member] to assisting to being a full-time coach, I already knew that I was destined to be a dance director in this lifetime.” Fast forward to 2014, when his crew, A-Team, made history by being the first Filipino MegaCrew to win the World Hip-Hop International in Las Vegas, a dance competition widely regarded as the Olympics of the hip-hop scene.
When asked about the most significant moments of his coaching career, the mentor shared the time when he coached an all-girl dance group, SPCP Terpsichore. “Though I don’t mention it to them all the time, they truly changed how I view coaching as a career and my life in general.” He went on to say that he gets a lot of satisfaction from coaching young dancers, especially when he watches them grow as artists and find success in their own right.
In addition to their 2014 HHI victory, MJ’s team has won other local and international championships, which has helped them attract a number of high-profile brand partnerships. They also frequently appear as special guests at events and large concerts both within and outside of the country, such as when they shared the stage with A-Mei and Jessi. The mentor’s unrivaled passion for coaching is also evident in the fact that he has already brought dancing workshops to more than 10 countries.
To wrap up our conversation, the A-Team’s coach imparted some valuable wisdom to aspiring dancers, emphasizing the importance of curating a supportive circle. “It may take some time to find them, but when you do, it’s worth a lifetime,” he mentioned.
Enjoying street dance since he was young, Vimi Rivera’s first formal dance training started when he joined the U.P. Streetdance Club under Jerome Dimalanta. In 2008, he was invited to coach La Salle Greenhills AirForce and the Assumption College Dance Troupe. A year later, he founded Legit Status and was invited to organize and coach the first street dance company of the De La Salle-College of St. Benilde. In 2013, he was invited to head coach the UP Streetdance Club, where they managed to secure the national championship that year. Currently, he is in his 16th year as the head coach of the ACDT, having won two World Championships and six National Championships, and the LSGH AirForce, who have seven National Championships under their belt. He also mentors other teams, including the Assumption Dance Company, CALISTA, Globe 917 Crew, and PLDT Street.
The dance coach claims that his greatest professional satisfaction comes from developing meaningful relationships with his students and helping them grow as individuals through dancing. He added, “Another rewarding feeling as a coach is when I see my students grow and progress as established coaches as well. I consider them family, so I really take care of my students and support them in every way.”
With a dance portfolio that is undeniably long and impressive, it becomes nearly impossible to cite all the remarkable feats that Vimi Rivera has accomplished throughout his career. Some of his most epic moments were when Legit Status took home the win at the 2023 HHI World Championship, his Ani ng Dangal award from the NCCA for his gold medal win with ACDT at Orlando Worlds, and when he led CSB Romancon to victory at the Dancelebration Championship. In addition to his collection of accolades and acknowledgments, the dance mentor also works at ABS-CBN, where he serves as a coach, judge, and consultant.
As a conclusion, Vimi shared five nuggets of advice for aspiring dance professionals. First, accept the fact that everyone’s path to success is unique. Second, figure out exactly what it is you want to do in this field. Third, make learning and growth a top priority. Fourth, find the right mentors to guide you and show them respect. Finally, remember to pray often and offer your hopes, dreams, and worries to God.
Our dance spotlight finishes with Chips Beltran, CEO of Peepz Talent Management and founder and director of UPeepz and VPeepz. The dance coach, who has already won many World Championships, said it all began when he and a friend formed a dance crew they called Hataw. “Ever since I first watched Hip-Hop International back in high school and saw the 2005 champions with my friends, I never wanted anything in this world but to become one.” Then they transferred to Ateneo High School, joined IndAK, and eventually had his formal training under Jerome Dimalanta. “Under the program, we had to go through 300 hours of assisting coaches for free. I went from literally cleaning the studio to having classes. I also underwent exams, [both] written and practical,” Chips shared.
He said that his first groups consisted of rather small organizations from the four major universities. Following this, he was hired as the head coach for many high school, college, and corporate crews, including Holy Spirit’s Aglaia, Ateneo’s IndAK, Smart, and Ayala Corp. Chips also coached the UST Prime, who took first place in the UAAP’s 85th season’s Street Dance Competition. On top of these, he has already begun coaching several teams and schools in the United States, Scotland, and New Zealand, and is also serving as a consultant to teams from a variety of other countries.
Just like the other mentors, Chips has an impressive career full of accomplishments. Under his leadership, his team competed at NBC World of Dance, winning in the third season and reaching the semi-finals in the next. He also achieved back-to-back international wins at the Hip-Hop Dance Championship, and he’s a two-time World Supremacy Battlegrounds champion. Additionally, he served as the production movement director and choreographer at the SEA Games opening and was also the official dance director for recent FIBA World Cup shows. Despite all these achievements, Chips treasures the inspiration he provides to young dancers. “What I have achieved in my career, what I have built through the years, my knowledge, experience, and love for dance—seeing the next generation of dancers also going through this journey and even taking it to greater heights makes me proud.”
With his dedication to nurturing the dreams of budding dancers, the coach ended our conversation by urging aspiring artists to seek out mentors whose guidance resonates with their innermost aspirations. He also emphasized that this form of art can be sustainable, but one must tread it with hard work and commitment. Above all, he reminded every dancer to savor the journey by staying responsible. As Chips eloquently put it, “Experience and work ethic are more important than talent and skill.”