Florent Llamas, Jérémy Chanton, Ludovic Chanton, Fred Caputo & Niko Rodrigues Pacaswing at Swing Family Festival
Red Prysock – Hand Clappin’
The Mama Stew or Mama’s Stew routine is a solo choreography that once again comes to us from the origins of Swing. Its a routine that was routinely practiced by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers and used as a warm up before they got onto the ‘real’ stuff.
The name comes from ‘Mama Lu & The Parkets’ who would perform the routine regularly. Louise “Mama Lou” Parks is actually the former hostess of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, and was also one of the dancers helping to bring Lindy Hop into the 21st century.
Check her out performing in this video from 2004 (WARNING: Potato quality).
The History of Mama Lou
Mama Lou started as a hat-check girl at the Savoy. But under the tutelage of dancers like George Sullivan, Delma “Big Nick” Nickerson and Lee Moates Mama Lu became a significant dancer in her own right.
After the Savoy Ballroom closed in 1943, Charles Buchanan, the Manager of the Savoy, urged Mama Lou and her fellow dancers to take on the responsibility of staging the Lindy Hop preliminaries, at the new Savoy Manor in the Bronx, for the Harvest Moon Ball Dance Competition. Mama Lu was integral for keeping the tradition of the Harvest Moon Ball going for years to come.
By 1961 she had established a professional dance company mostly comprised of those who had won the Harvest Moon Ball, which had various names The Lou Parks Dancers, The Parkettes; Mama Lu Parks and her Jazz Dancers – as well as other incarnations. The company continued touring for 29 years until her passing in 1990.
Her dancers also toured around the world, performing in Sweden in 1963 with the “King Coleman Show”, in Mexico in 1968 at a cultural festival before the 1968 Olympics
The Parkettes attracted the attention of the British TV Company who produced “The Southbank Show” a UK television show on ITV. In 1981 they paid for one of Mama Lu’s events to be re-staged at Small’s Paradise Club on 7th Avenue in Harlem.
The routine itself is fairly simple, with the hardest move being the ‘Squat Charleston’. But it makes for a fun solo dance that can be done FAST. If you’re interested in trying it out on your own, you can check out this video we made at the beginning of the pandemic that should get you through the basics of the routine. And I’m sure you’ll be using it in your warmups in no time.
Thomas Latter, Karen Tong, and Aurore Alauze