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old pic of Sharifa doing backbend with a fat snake over her headThe Gilded Serpent presents...
The Legend of
Julius Squeezer
by Sharifa

I shall never forget my most gentle of beasts, my 14-foot long python," Julius Squeezer"! Weighing in at 80 lb., Julius was nearly impossible to pick up all at once.

I had to pull him from his cage by placing his bottom half around my body first; then supporting the top half with both arms, I could complete the lift.

Having danced with smaller snakes for several years, I had always dreamed of dancing with Julius. Mr. Squeezer was already eight feet long when I bought him, and even then, his mass and weight challenged my 5'4'' frame! Realizing that it would not be possible to dance a duet with Julius, I fantasized troupe choreography utilizing Julius as the "King of Snakes" in a multiple-person single-snake dance. Three of my dancers in Troupe Tangiers welcomed the challenge. We rehearsed our dance several times. Each of us was in charge of a section of the snake. I got Julius' substantial head, of course, since the other dancers were afraid he might bite them. Julius was relaxed, holding himself perfectly still for each of our rehearsals. We coiled his length, raised and lowered his body and wove him around us at different times. He was such a calm trouper inside the studio!

Our big snake debut was a memorable and infamous performance at Raks Esterady Middle Eastern Dance Festival. Raks Esterady was an outdoor festival with camel rides, vendors, and continuous dance entertainment. The festival was produced by Troupe Tangiers in the summers of 1984, 1985, 1986, at a lovely, grassy park in sunny Martinez, CA. Perhaps some of you California dancers will remember seeing this spectacle of King Julius, the camels, magicians, and tents.

None of our troupe had thought Julius would react to the crowd or vise versa. Our dance went well the first two minutes before we removed Julius from his rattan trunk. The crowd gave a shocked reaction to such an enormous snake. What could the dancers possible do with him? Did they have control? Would he free himself from their grip?

One could sense the panic of the crowd in a shock wave starting at the stage and radiating to the back rows of spectators, in a serpentine, wave-like pattern.

Julius immediately developed stage fright, stiffening his body like a giant log, about to roll out of our tenuous grasp! The dancers kept moving, staying with their choreography but gripping tighter instinctively to prevent his possible escape. Julius, sensing he couldn't get loose from us, decided to wriggle and writhe himself loose from our ever-tightening grips. We, at this point, managed to contain him with both arms in four bear hugs down his body!

This "graceful" serpentine dance was becoming a battle between women and beast, as he pulled us down to the stage floor along with him. We each let go of our bear hugs and swooped him back up, with renewed determination to finish our unusual dance. Safely back in his trunk he went, hissing loudly for the crowd and us!

What a funny, scary, brave, and exhausting feat our troupe accomplished that day! Our audience was entertained far beyond our expectations! Strangely enough, I could never persuade the ladies to dance with Julius again. This performance goes down in history of Troupe Tangiers as "The Legend of Julius Squeezer!"

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