Ian Flaws, who grew up in Boulder in the ’90s, learned to breakdance as a high school junior. At the time, dance studios weren't teaching hip-hop moves, so he was schooled in basements and garages, gymnasiums and any other makeshift spaces where B-boys were congregating to perfect their daring moves.
After college, he set off to teach English internationally, with stints in Cambodia, Costa Rica and South Korea. There he used breakdancing as a way to connect with young people. About a decade ago, he returned to Colorado, rented a space, and began to set up a breakin' studio. By 2012, the Bboy Factory was born.
Flaws says it took him three years to get his business out of the red; teaching drop-in classes for people ages three to fifty and giving away twelve hours of free studio time a week weren’t exactly the way to turn a quick profit. But eventually he created a passionate hip-hop community, turning the Bboy Factory into a celebrated Denver institution.
But when Colorado’s stay-at-home order went into effect last month, shutting down gymnasiums, he was forced to close the Factory. “At first, it was a bit of a shock to be totally shut down,” Flaws says. “My landlord sent me my rent. I quickly just got a schedule together of classes. I had zero experiences. It’s been a learning curve, for sure. We got several classes online for our regular studio students."
Most of his students stuck with him. And within weeks of launching online, students from New Mexico, California, Texas and Georgia had also signed up for drop-in classes. “It’s been cool to see that expanded reach,” he says. “I think this experience has really permanently changed the dance industry.”
While Flaws has currently cut his adult classes, he's still taking online students. And even after the studio reopens, he plans to continue to teach virtually, since it not only gives him another source of income, but also a way to expand the Bboy Factory's reach.
On Thursday, April 23, Flaws will co-teach a ninety-minute virtual class with world champion Red Bull B-boy Omar "RoxRite" Delgado Macias; the class will be followed by a twenty-minute Q&A. This will be the first online workshop RoxRite has offered.
"I teach workshops, which tend to be for people who already know about breaking," he says. But the online session will be for beginners too.
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In the months ahead, RoxRite had planned to compete in battles all over the world, but they have all been canceled. The workshops he was going to lead at universities and community centers are no longer happening. And the prospect of performing soon — in a stadium or even a smaller venue — is off the table.
Outside of online classes, which he will be teaching from now on through his website, and online B-boy competitions, he's focused on improving his craft.
"All I can do right now is stay consistent with my training," he explains.
The workshop with Flaws and RoxRite takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 23. There's a suggested donation of $15; sign up at email@example.com. For more information, go to the Bboy Factory website.