Belly Dance

Dancing with a Live Snake

by Valeria Lo Iacono

Snake in the act

Performing belly dance with a live snake can add an extra dimension and drama to your performance. However, dancing with live snakes is not for everybody and it is important to remember that a snake is not a prop, but a living creature that needs to be treated with respect and cared for. Having said this, there are a few tips that can be given to dancers who want to perform with snakes:

  • When performing with a live snake, check first with your clients, to make sure that they are well aware that a live snake will be present during the routine. Also, the audience should be made aware of this, as some people might be scared of snakes even to the point of phobia.
  • Commonly used species are Corn snakes, which can be brightly coloured; ball pythons or albino Burmese pythons.
  • Be aware that, even if some species can have a gentle nature in general, individual temperament may vary in individual snakes.
  • Snakes that are longer than six or seven feet can be hard to manoeuvre, so make sure you choose a species that will not grow longer than you can manoeuvre comfortably.
  • Make sure you are aware of the snake’s need in terms of temperature, right environment, feeding and hygiene. As pointed out above a snake is not a prop, but a living creature that needs looking after.
  • Never leave your snake unattended with a customer or let customers come too close. Snakes may get agitated if there is too much commotion around them, so make sure they do not get startled.
  • Do not dance with a snake that is shedding its skin, as snakes at this stage are quite irritable and will not respond well.
  • When you dance, be careful in the way you handle the snake. Take all the necessary precautions to avoid harm to you and also to the snake. Avoid sudden and sharp movements, unless until you know the snake well and how it will react to certain movements.
  • Floor work with snakes works particularly well, but pay attention not to press the weight of your body onto the snake.
  • Choose your costume carefully. Avoid coins, rhinestone, metal or jagged beads that may cut yours or the snake’s skin. Prefer instead clothing with minimal amount of three dimensional decoration and smooth beads.

For further information on using a snake in your dance routine, there is a chapter on this subject in ‘The Belly Dance Book. Rediscovering the Oldest Dance’. In addition to advice on how to dance with snakes, this book is a great source of information for everything to do with belly dance. As for DVDs, on Amazon I have come across a DVD called: ‘Belly Dance with Snakes: Embody your inner serpent with Serpentessa’, which has good reviews. Of course, if you have never danced with a snake before, do not just learn from books and DVDs, but take lessons from a dancer who has experience dancing with snakes.

Snake Video

You will have to wait until the 3rd minute in this video, but this is an excellent opportunity to see Shahara dancing with a live snake in her routine. Enjoy!

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Valeria is a dance researcher completing a PhD in dance and heritage. Valeria also teaches and performs as a belly dance but also enjoys learning ballet, jazz dance and other dance genres.

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