Meet Mamie Kakes: Celebrating 34 Years of Kakes Studios

by Vicky Youcha

Kakes Studios just had its 34th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Boulder Swing Dance sat down with Mamie Kakes to learn about the person behind the studios.

Mamie Kakes (AKA Marilyn Kepes) was born in Detroit, Michigan and attended its coolest black high school - Mumford High – the same high school named on Eddie Murphy’s t-shirt in Beverly Hills Cop. Her interest in dance started at age 5 as she watched her older brother and sister take Jitterbug lessons in their basement.

By age ten she was taking ballroom dance lessons with 13 year-olds who were preparing for their Bar Mitzvahs. As she tells it, she was a tubby kid and ended up dancing with the owner of the studio and learning a lot. By age 13 she won a Cha-Cha contest at one of her friend’s Bat Mitzvah.

At Mumford High Marilyn soon discovered her love and aptitude for the dances of the mid-60s including the Afro-Twist, the Shing-a-ling and everything Motown. Rhythm came easy to her.

In college at the University of Michigan, she earned a BA in Urban Education. She discovered her love of African Dance when her boyfriend enrolled and she refused to be left behind.

After college Marilyn got in a car with several girlfriends and headed to Boulder. She never left. She took a ton of dance classes and then started teaching. She made up her own exercise class calling it “Afrobics.”  She made up a new name, Mamie. She also taught roller skating and founded a roller skating rink in Santa Fe that survives to this day– the Rockin’ Rollers Event Arena.

By 1983, Mamie had been in Boulder for 10 years and was the head cashier at Pearl Street Market, the precursor to Alfalfa’s. When the local Free School folded, she had the opportunity to rent a dance studio and the price was right. She invented “Kakes” from a card her then boyfriend sent with a bouquet of flowers. The word “babycakes” was involved. The studio was a success from the beginning and she’s never had to advertise.  Running the studio gives her a lot of freedom and joy, things she prizes. She calls herself a broker of time and space.

Mamie ‘s unique dance philosophy goes like this, “It’s your birthright to know how to dance at your kid’s wedding.  Everybody should be able to dance. This is my purpose in life.”

Mamie walks the walk by offering FREE Barebones Ballroom Dancing for Dummies. She teaches that everybody leads and everybody follows.  “Learning to lead is hard. You’re the one in control, deciding what’s going to happen. Now what do I do, now what do I do? It’s pretty taxing. Men don’t really know how to dance or how to be sensual. When they start learning, all of a sudden everything has to start at the feet. Men never get to follow first. They don’t know how it’s supposed to feel. There’s no flow. It’s way cart before the horse. When you learn both roles, you have compassion for the other person.”

Mamie sees herself as a marriage therapist for dance. “When both partners shake hands and agree, there’s an elasticity of giving and receiving. You take turns and share the Toy of who’s in charge of initiating each move.” She continues, “You’re responsible for your own joy! It needs to be more allowed to do you.” She’s glad to see it becoming the norm to ask and be asked if you would like to lead or follow.

Mamie says you’re the most beautiful man on earth if you can partner dance. It’s safe and sane, sensuous fun.  “This is my passion. It’s so simple and I just want to pass it around.”

She’s out dancing most nights. Call her - 303.818.2668