BOULDER, CO – MAY 14, 2019: Mamie Kakes will be closing down Kakes Dance Studios in Boulder on May 31, 2019. (Photo by Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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A longtime community gathering space will soon become part of history.

For 36 years Kakes Studios on Pearl Street provided affordable rental space for classes, rehearsals, performances and parties, but it’s closing at the end of May. The spot will be redeveloped by the new owners, said Mamie Kakes (real name Marilyn Kepes), who ran the place more as a labor of love than a business enterprise.

“I’m an artist. I love to share the gifts I have. I have been a booker of time and space,” she said.

Kakes, a teacher at Boulder Community Free School (which existed from 1969 to 1983 and was a school where anyone could teach anything) developed a reputation early on with her “Motown Get Down,” and tap dance lessons. In 1983, she had the opportunity to lease the two studios, about 1,800 square feet of space. Word of mouth brought instructors looking for a floor and students eager to learn, she said. It attracted those interested in ballroom/swing, Lindy hop, Balboa (vintage swing), tango, salsa, African dance, African drumming, hula, yoga, martial arts, performance art, hoop dance, hip-hop and more.

The studios became a meeting grounds of creativity, passion and camaraderie, she said. “I never raised rent in the last 15 years.”

Eric Freeman has offered salsa dancing at Kakes Studios since the late 1990s after attending dancing lessons there. It’s been part of his journey as a student, instructor and an artist, he said.

“My hobby and love turned into a career,” Freeman said. “Mamie has been easy to work with and easy to communicate with. I’ll miss teaching at Kakes.”

He is looking at other studio spaces to continue offering dance lessons and hoping Kakes’ closure doesn’t impact his business.

“It was a good location. Everyone knew about Kakes,” said Freeman, who also leads educational music and dance trips to Cuba.

The loss of space doesn’t mean Kakes is hanging up her dancing shoes. She will continue to offer private partner dancing lessons at Boulder’s The Spark Performing & Creative Arts. It’s about sharing what she loves. Everybody is welcome to learn at a price they can afford, she said. Her fees are based on a sliding scale, ranging from $0 to $60 an hour.

Madeline Goldstein is a student of Kakes. She was impressed by Kakes teaching philosophy that encourages partner dancers to alternate their roles to lead and to follow. After learning  dancing in Chicago, Goldstein began taking private lesson from Kakes about six or seven years ago to improve her moves. “I have become better at partner dancing.”

Kakes sense of rhythm makes it easier to understand her instruction, she said. “Her studios have been an expression of who she is,” Goldstein said.

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