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We All Need a Little Help Sometimes: A Short Reflection from Ian Flaws

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

To be quite honest, I don’t really know where to start or even what to write. My last blog here was published July 31st, 2020, 885 days ago. So much has happened. Much has changed. I feel it is has been an extremely difficult period of time for a lot of people. It certainly has for me.

Of course, I want to write about all the great things that have happened at The Bboy Factory over the past 2 and ½ years, but truly in my heart, I want to write about deeper things. Things of more significance. Things like humility, grace, perseverance, integrity and self-respect. I want to discuss Hip Hop too, and art vs sport, theater, and photography. I want to talk about creating different formats and event platforms that bring joy to the forefront of our dance. I want to share things I’ve learned about letting go, saying goodbyes and how to keep growing gracefully even as I stumble along. I want to talk about my own shortcomings and regrets and the lessons I am learning as I reflect. I want to express the reasons I continue to push forward in my career as an artist. So, as I sit here trying to figure out what to write in this blog, let me start by making a commitment to you, my few readers out there, to return to writing consistently in 2023. It is my intention to return to writing monthly blogs from the heart about things I believe matter to the Breakin' community and the small community here at The Bboy Factory.

As 2020 progressed and COVID became our new reality, everything changed. Lock down forced us to adapt and events were cancelled. Eventually, we reopened and got used to dancing and interacting in masks. Slowly our numbers began to return to classes and we could feel the hunger in our community for activities. But so many things had changed. Most notably, the time in isolation really forced us to reflect on all we had done and what it would mean for us to continue. To be honest, for several weeks near the end of 2020, I seriously considered closing the studio. Students I thought would take over teaching responsibilities moved away. Kids I thought would return after lockdown never did. Teachers left. The grind, the uphill battle, the drama, the competition all started to get overwhelming. We had already been open 8 years, but after lockdown, it felt like I had to start all over again at building the studio business. I began to write a letter to our studio community explaining my decision to close our doors.

In that moment of resignation, I was faced with the truth that pushing forward and keeping the studio alive would require significant changes. For too long I had accepted the studio surviving rather than thriving. I have taken on everything without any help. I am the manager, the administrator, the janitor, head of marketing, creative director and the primary instructor. The facility is not sustainable without my constant presence. With a toddler at home and a wife pursuing her own dreams and passions, I've been spread so thin and it felt like I might break under the pressure of it all. Maybe a part of me did. The part of me that was holding onto to the image I had of myself and The Bboy Factory. My life had become so entangled with the studio. I could see that the only way forward was to let go, at least a little...

In 2021, I began reaching out to all the instructors I knew. Over the course of the year, we went from 4 instructors on the weekly schedule to 8. We revamped our website and added a new registration mechanism for students to pay for classes online. We knocked out a wall to built a second studio space and remodeled our reception. I had parents of students helping with construction and web development. I allowed myself to receive help. It felt fresh and up lifting. Energy was flowing and the business really began to pick up.

Also in 2021, my wife, Alexandria Marcus, began a series of workshops and parties under the name House Party Denver. Her mission was to connect dancers and DJs outside of the studio and to help grow the social aspect of dance. It was a huge hit and immediately the energy in the House dance community felt vibrant and even radiant. It was contagious. She began collaborating with DJs and soon Love Language became the new hot monthly dance party in town. Our own House class was packed with Anna aka Nanz on board as a new instructor. The energy seeped into the Bboy Factory and I realized that the studio was benefiting so much from a dance culture that wasn’t competitive. The social and recreational aspect of House was so appealing and House Party Denver was alive!

I was really inspired by this movement and the work and resources my wife was pouring into her community. To this day, I am so grateful for her. A candle can light so many others and it never diminishes its own flame. I see her so bright and sharing that spark with so many and I admire her. House Party Denver shifted my perspective on so many things. I saw so much joy and it helped me reconnect with my younger self who started dancing almost 25 years ago. When I began Breakin’ I had no intention of competing. Competitions hardly even existed in Colorado at the time. I started Breakin’ because it was fun, and the movement brought me joy. Even years later, when I started to compete and got more serious about Breakin’ I still looked forward to Thursday nights at Round Midnight with DJ Vajra (Chris Karns) more than competitions. For several years my crew would cypher every Thursday and that was my reason for dancing. It was a party, literally, my social connection to a community. Twenty-some years later in the midst of a pandemic I still just wanted to dance for the joy the movement brings me. In the studio, in the club, in the park, it doesn’t matter, I love this dance.

I realized that I had been distracted. In 2019, I was asked to sit on the board of USA Breakin’ and worked 2 years towards the idea of Breakin’ becoming a sport in the Olympics. I’m not against Breakin’ going to the Olympics, but it is not my mission. I always existed in the artistic end of the cultural spectrum. I have always taught that Breakin’ is a dance and dance is art. To this day competitions so often feel saturated with political jockeying, infighting and an ends justify the means mentality that forces people to sacrifice personal integrity for their image of success. Competitive success was never my idea of success and I had let my own passions be put on the back burner in order to give my energy to the Olympic movement. House Party Denver helped me realize I had given so much time to something my heart was never really in and at the end of 2021 I resigned from USA Breakin'.

Back to the lab I guess. Back to my own creative endeavors. There is much work to be done. I still clean the toilet and take out the trash, teach classes, manage administration, pay the bills, respond to inquiries and spend time with my family… and… I still want to train and dance and be an artist. It still feels overwhelming at times, like I still need more help. I have learned that help is hard to accept and that requires me to put my ego aside and be receptive. I know that 2023 will bring more help and more growth and I will continue to refocus on the artistic projects that inspire me. At the same time I plan to work on making the studio more sustainable without my constant attention and supervision.

2022 was filled with reconnecting and working through changes and processing all the shit I went through and we collectively went through over the past several years. A couple moments that really stand out in my memory are some creative projects that really left me feeling proud and fulfilled. We began quarterly photoshoots with the incredible, Matt McDonald. Matt is a former instructor at the Bboy Factory. He is also a talented photographer, graphic designer and media producer. Matt and I have worked on many creative projects in the past and working together in 2022 allowed me to express an artistic vision that he was able to capture. In October, we produced a shoot called Sonic Shadows and had a gallery show to present our photography. It felt authentic and representative of our vision and growth. We were putting our art at the forefront. There were no judges and no opponents, just creativity, raw and electric.

We also brought back our Anniversary Jam this year in celebration of our 10th Year, but this time we called it a “Ball.” I wanted it to be very clear that my focus was throwing an incredible party and that the competition was secondary. It was our biggest event ever with over 400 attendees over the course of the weekend. I see people on social media talking about “Hip Hop used to be a party,” “competitions aren’t jams, where are the real jams at,” “nobody cyphers anymore,” etc. Well, we did it. We put the focus on the party and it was a huge success.

With help from United Hip Hop Vanguard, specifically Rokafella, KwikStep and AsiaOne we had Grand Wizard Theodore, the inventor of the scratch rock an hour party set with United Hip Hop Vanguard. Equally formidable DP ONE, and DJ A-L also rocked sets for a full 4 hours of party jam vibes with some of the best music selectors in the game. There was a legacy cypher full of icons and legends like our friend and host, Ivan the Urban Action Figure, MCs, and some raw battles including Ali vs Kurt and Bgirl Meelicious vs La Vix. The kids got involved with and showcase cypher. There was a Friday night pre party with an illuminating panel discussion also hosted by United Hip Hop Vanguard and it all tied together with New York City’s Kwikstep, spinning for his birthday with the monthly party Love Language and all our House dance friends at a late night club downtown.

Equally fulfilling, was all the work we did with our students. Our kids team grew and all our programs that feed up to our team grew. Our new Breakin instructors Mikey, Bowzee and Cuba have breathed new air into our classes and the studio is filled with smiling kids learning to Break. The team is looking strong, and we are putting together a full show piece. Our goal is to one day enter the USA Battle of the Year Qualifier. Maybe not in 2023, but one day. I hope that we see more theater opportunities grow alongside the athletic movement and when that happens we will be ready. More importantly the teamwork is teaching the kids the power of lifting each other up and allowing others to lift us. It’s incredible to watch them grow together. Some of them weren’t even born yet when we opened almost 11 years ago…

11 years ago… 2022 was our 10th year. It was a good year.

We hosted workshops with Victor and Kate, Neguin, Bonita, YNot, Venum, Born, Whacko, Kwikstep, Kapela, Jardy Santiago, Coflo and more. We added Yoga to our schedule and brought back our toprocks classes. Our team grew. The energy is good. We’re building, we’re growing and we’re clear in our vision to listen to our hearts and follow. The challenges continue and will continue, but that’s okay at least for me personally, because I still have so much love for this dance. I have been reminded through trials and hardships of my purpose behind this whole crazy project called The Bboy Factory. Thank you each and everyone of you who has reached out to lend a hand, who has put in work or just shown moral support. We wouldn’t be here today without you. That’s the truth. So, tune in, follow the journey and get involved. We are working from frequencies of love, acceptance, creativity and compassion in 2023!

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Luis Portillo
Luis Portillo
Jan 02, 2023

We started coming to Bboy Factory almost 6 years ago. It was therapeutic for us, we were going through a tough time in life and the studio provided a safe release from the problems. We were welcomed with open arms from the hip hop community. Not just this studio but also all of the other Colorado schools. I was told that it was not like that in the old days. Maybe that's growth then? Ian, thank you for your efforts in uniting the dance community and providing a positive space for community for kids and adults!

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