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Inspiring Conversations with James Alexander of Flavor’d Flow Studio

Today we’d like to introduce you to James Alexander. 

Hi James, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
My name is James Alexander. I am also known as Bboy Osuga. I was born and raised on the north side of Columbus. I am the owner of Flavor’d Flow Studio. Flavor’d Flow is the first and only Hip-Hop cultural-based dance studio in Columbus. Our primary focus is Breakin’ (breakdancing). There are several stories that were happening and lining up at the same time. These stories all came together to get me to where I am at today. I remember Breakin in the ’80s and tried imitating it but never had a chance to really learn the dance. Around 1993/94 I was introduced to the culture of Hip-Hop by some of the older guys that helped bring graffiti to Columbus. I immediately fell in love with Hip-Hop. It was the first time I really felt accepted. I started surrounding myself with other people in the scene and attending the underground events. During this time, I was a freshman in high school. We had two dances a year–Homecoming in the fall and King’s Kaper in the spring. I went to both and hated it!! I only danced during the slow songs with my date, other than that I was a wallflower. After the spring dance, I remember going home and saying in my head that suuucked!!! I soon realized that schools wouldn’t have dances if they weren’t meant to be fun. So, I decided that the next year that I was going to go and wild out and dance. I remember practicing moving to the music in my room that summer and early fall. That next Homecoming came and I went and just let loose. I had a BLAST! This is when I fell in love with dance. After that, I continued to “wyle out” at dancing and continuing my love of just dancing just boogying. 

Through high school, I was interested in becoming an Elementary school teacher. In 1996 one of my friends showed me some videos of battles/competitions from California. I was so intrigued and wanted to learn how to Break. It had changed a lot from what I remember from the ’80s. But there was nowhere to learn in Columbus… yet. After high school I decided to take a hiatus from school; it just wasn’t for me. I knew I needed to get a degree in order to become a teacher, but felt like I needed a break from school. To help start the process of becoming a teacher, I did a volunteer program helping kids to read. When I was 18 (1998) and graduated from high school, I started seeing more and more dancers out at the clubs. My friend found a Breakin’ class at a local rec center and we went. I immediately fell in love with the dance, structure, and discipline. That night I knew that this is ME… this is what I want to do. I put a dance floor in my basement that night. That inner dialogue that inside voice in me was talking and I listened up and acted on it. I decided that this is what I am going to do for my life. I knew that to pursue dancing, I needed to work just as hard (if not harder than) as I would if I were going to college. I surrounded myself with other dancers in the city, practicing and dancing for 2-8 hours every day. I would go to clubs, perform, and go to battles as much as I could. Clubs were like my gym, my workout, my practices for performances and battles. My adrenaline would be pumping and it wouldn’t matter if I messed up while improving my craft because I was at a club. I was laser focused. 

In 2000, a woman named Sharon Daye opened a local studio. I had met her son a few weeks earlier where I found out about the studio. He said he would call me about teaching. I went on thinking nothing would probably come about it. Two weeks later he calls and said his mom wants to see me dance. As we spoke, I told him I don’t know if I was ready to teach, I had only been dancing for 2 years. I asked if I could have someone help me, and she agreed to that. So, I asked the one person that took me under his wing, Renshawn Lomax, now my best friend. Renshawn really showed me the way and taught me a lot! We went and danced for Sharon and she hired us on the spot. This was a turning point of my life that really set me on my path. This is where all the stories merged. I was doing what I love to do (dancing) and I was teaching kids. I owe A LOT to Sharon Daye. She did so much for me and, in turn, did a lot for Hip-Hop and Breakin in Columbus. She was one of the first studios to offer Breakin and recognize it as a legitimate dance. She pushed me to teach and even got me more teaching jobs at other studios. She would pay me even if I had no students or my attendance was low. 

At my top of teaching career, I was teaching at 5 different studios simultaneously, including the most prestigious one in the city. My crew Shaolin Funk and I started travelling a lot to compete. We started making it to the finals and winning a lot of the battles. After a while, Sharon allowed me to host battles at the studio. Now I am about 28 years old and having a blast. This is where I started really getting off my path. I decided I am good where I am, and I really stopped shooting for my goal. I told myself I am still young I got time. I became complacent and other things took priority. Life came at me fast!!! By the time I was 33 I started realizing I wasn’t who I wanted to be or where I wanted to be in life. I didn’t know how to change. From 33 to 35 I didn’t know how I got here and how to get back on my path. I decided to ask for help and found a mentor, Dave Chapin. Asking for help was probably the strongest thing I could’ve ever have done. At first it was tough listening to his suggestions because I thought I knew what was best for me. But I realized that maybe I don’t always know what’s best for me; after all, I got myself where I was at, and it wasn’t good. I realized that maybe I should listen to someone that changed their life and do what he did…so I did. Dave mentored me and taught me so much about life. I matured a lot and he got me back on my path. Within a year of asking for help, I was able to open my own studio. 

Through my career, my vision of my path changed. I learned more and more about the dance and culture and that knowledge changed my path. My end game was always to open my own studio, just the path changed. I never had a “fallback” plan, I don’t believe in plan b’s. Plan b is usually what people focus on and their dream is put to the side. I owe a lot to so many people! I have so many great people in my life, from Sharon Daye to Renshawn Lomax to the artist who introduced me to the culture (they like to remain anonymous) and mentor Dave Chapin! I go by Bboy Osuga because it’s my mom’s family name. My mom raised me and is always there for me. She instilled so much in me from the importance of being well-spoken, to having confidence, to if I fall that it’s ok just get back up and go again and so much more! But most importantly, she always supported me in the things I wanted to do, not what she wanted me to do. Breakin’ is definitely not a traditional thing to do, and she continued to support me and be proud of me. She never said you should do something else or pushed me to have a plan B. If you are a parent, support your kid in the things they love to do, not what you them to do. Your child will do AMAZING things if you support them in their own life!!! 

In summary, I try to continue to follow my main mission to help the youth become young professionals. I try to teach as many life lessons as possible through the dance. Today I try to spread kindness, love, acceptance of all and open-mindedness. I stress the importance of standing up for what’s right and for equality. These kids will be the change in the next generation!!! I carry myself with the values that Breakin’ and Hip-Hop culture has given and taught me. I continue to listen to my inner voice and act upon it. I believe everyone has that inner dialogue, but not everyone acts on it and most let it fizzle out. Listen to your inner voice and act on it. I didn’t get to where I am at by just thinking about it… IT TAKES ACTION!!! 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Yes, I have counter many types of struggles through my journey. Some are internal and some are external struggles. The internal struggles tend to be the toughest. Some of the external struggles are from other people’s opinion of the culture or dance. Others are opinions about me and my dance. One of the biggest struggles with the dance and culture is the stigma. Because of the media and Hip-Hop growing up in the 1980s, there’s a lot of racist ideals that nothing positive can come from a black culture or art form. I combat this by carrying myself with the values that this culture has taught me and being respectful and knowledgeable about its history. As long as I keep doing this, I tend to change people’s minds. The other part is that people believe if you’re just moving on the floor you’re Breakin’. This is not the case, Breakin’ is just like all other dances, it has its fundamentals, foundation, and structure. So, to teach the dance, it’s important for me to be well-spoken about using the correct terminology and explaining the history. The biggest and hardest challenges are the internal ones. For dance, one of the biggest challenges isn’t the task at hand but rather when you hit a plateau and feel like quitting. To push through that and to keep dancing. But on the other side of that plateau is growth and a stronger relationship with the dance. The little struggles of learning new steps and moves are what is fun. If there were no challenge, it wouldn’t be fun, and I would’ve quit. The external struggles, in contrast, are the simpler challenges. For example, I have had a lot of people hate on my style or have an opinion on my style. Some people will stop at these because they’re worried about what others think about them. There will always be people that have opinions and believe that their opinion is more important than anyone else. At the end of the day, they’re just opinions. This is a huge driving force for me–those haters only pushed me to strive and work harder. So, I say thank you to them! 

Opening and running my own business is a continuous struggle. Many are all in my head, so it is a constant effort to open my mind. I thought that starting a business was going to be the biggest challenge. Looking back that was the easiest challenge because all that was stopping it was fear. I took action. I didn’t have starting capital, but I was determined to explain my mission to people and they responded with support and resources. Nothing was handed to me, I had to go out and get it! The more I worked on my business and venue, the more my vision changed and the more I grew with it. For example, there were a lot of barriers in preparing my facility to open. First, the room I have is 3200 sq feet, including a stage. This was not originally my vision for my studio. Because of all the studios, I had taught at, I had a picture in my head of a large studio with a certain look… and this was not it. That was one of the first expectations that I had to work through, realizing that I would have to work with what I had and that a Breakin’ studio would be a whole different ball game than my previous studios. 

Being a business owner taught me many things, like how to evolve, adapt, and deal with unmet expectations. I had to understand that many of my ideas were too grandiose and had to be more logical at times. I had to learn how to balance time between the studio, self-care, and my close relationships. I had to learn how to say no, which was a lesson well learned. Covid was a huge challenge, not only financially but also in how to keep everyone safe while teaching such an involved physical art. I learned how to pivot quickly and make things happen. I did online classes throughout the covid shutdown. When I was able to open back up, I didn’t accept any new kids for the first 6 months. My first priority were my existing kids’ and family’s safety and well-being. I lowered my prices to make sure that all could still take class, even if they were being affected by the pandemic. My goal was to just break even and get through it. I know that I have some AMAZING support and my families wouldn’t have let me fall. The silver lining is now I know if I can make through a pandemic, I can make it through anything! The biggest struggle is maintaining a business financially and physically. I don’t do it perfectly and I make mistakes but that’s ok! I make sure to keep pushing forward!!! 

If there were no struggles or challenges, it wouldn’t be worth it. It’s about the journey and the growth. Struggles are the sandstone to smooth out the rough edges, the whetstone to sharpen your skills, the touchstone to test your strength, and the polish to make you shine! Don’t run from the struggles and challenges, take them face on and you’ll learn who you are. Adversity introduces us to ourselves. Most challenges are internal and are usually fear. Do not let fear dictate your LIFE!!! 

As you know, we’re big fans of Flavor’d Flow Studio. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Flavored Flow Studio is the first and only Hip-Hop cultural-based dance studio. Our primary focus is Breakin and Poppin’. We offer kids classes 5-12yrs old, teen classes, and adult classes. Flavor’d Flow also provides summer camps, after-school programs, workshops, birthday parties, and other programs. The studio also brings in other talented dancers to provide master classes. Flavor’d Flow also hosts many battles and other events for the community throughout the year. 

As a studio, we perform all over Columbus and surrounding cities in Ohio. We also travel around the country to compete and expose our students to different experiences and challenges. 

Our mission: 

Flavor’d Flow Studio will make an impact in children’s lives through Hip-Hop culture and its dances. The classes will instill confidence, discipline, and structure through foundation. Each child will learn the importance of respect, diversity, hard work, teamwork, and many other values. Our main goal is to help each student to become young professionals and prepare them to follow their dreams! To give all the b-boys, b-girls, and breakers an outlet and a safe place to dance. Flavor’d Flow Studio will be the home for Columbus Hip-Hop. Through Flavor’d Flow Studio, we will educate people about Hip-Hop culture and the dances. To help change the image/stigma of what the media has portrayed Hip-Hop. 

Flavor’d Flow Studio – Putting the flavor into the flow of life! 

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc?
I listen to many inspirational/motivational speeches on YouTube. Most are compilations of different motivational speakers. Some of my favorites are Inky Johnson, Les Brown, Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, and Eric Thomas. My favorite 2 speeches are both at a college graduation. They are Denzel Washington at Dillard University and Admiral William H. McRaven at university of Texas. 

Some quotes I live by: 

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer 

“If I always do what I’ve always done, I’ll always be what I’ve always been.” – Les Brown 

“Hard work… works” – Denzel Washington 

” A dream without goals is only a dream.” -Denzel Washington 

The thing I do with these speeches is take action and do what the say. I cannot think and listen my way into change, growth, or advancing… I can only do that by actions! 

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Image Credits

Courtney Hergesheimer
Josh Miller

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