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Dancing with Snakes
by Maria

Occasionally, I receive an email asking for videos of my snake dancing, tips for dancing with snakes, or any resources I have found. I have received quite a few emails, and they have inspired me to write an article; so, thank you everyone who has ever sent me an email asking about the secrets of dancing with a snake!

I hope that someday soon I will have a video of myself dancing with my snake.  Though I don’t have one now, I do have important tips for dancing with snakes, their care and feeding, and everything else involved in dancing with them.

When I started my journey into snake dancing, I learned through trial and error, because there is not much accessible information, nor are there many people who incorporate them into dance.

The most important element is one’s affinity with snakes.  You cannot be a person who dislikes snakes, or finds it uncomfortable to be in their presence, and still be able to work with them properly

They can feel your energy, just like any other kind of animal.  Therefore, if you are nervous, they will be nervous also, and a nervous snake makes for an unhappy snake!

Dancing with a snake requires:

  • having a snake in your home
  • proper care
  • careful feeding

You need to have a tank large enough in which to house your snake, so that he will be comfortable moving around inside it.  The tank must have a source of heat because snakes are cold blooded.  You need to keep a water dish filled with clean water for them.  They like to drink water often, and they like to take baths in their water.  You must provide the proper bedding for your particular snake.  Some snakes like sand, and others like a “forest floor” type of bedding. 

I recommend that you purchase your snake at a store that specializes in reptiles called a herpivarium.  There, they will most likely have the knowledge to be able to guide you. 

You also must be able to feed them live animals, and not be squeamish about it.  Some reptile stores recommend buying dead frozen animals, defrosting them, then feeding this to your snake, because the rats, mice, or gerbils do bite the snake sometimes.  However, I prefer feeding live bait to my snake, I feel it satisfies their hunting urge, and makes more content.  You need to keep an eye on the feeding process to make sure that the animal you have introduced as a food source does not bite your snake in defense. I do not feed my snake in his cage.  I remove my snake, and put him in a large cardboard box for feeding.  I do not want him to associate his cage with food, and this proceedure keeps their living area much cleaner.  You also must keep the snakes living quarters clean.  Yes, snakes do defecate like every other animal, and you must remove that and clean the area. Snake owners must remove shed skin and provide new bedding. Snakes may not need to be walked and played with as do dogs and cats, but they do like to be handled – in fact – it is essential that they become accustomed to being handled by you particularly, in order for the snake to find dancing with you acceptable behavior. 

Which brings me to: Performing with your snake.
I never bring my snake to a gig unless I have received a request to do so!  Some people have an overwhelming fear of snakes, and surprising someone with a snake would be a fearful and insensitive thing to do. If asked to bring my snake to a performance, I charge extra because of the extra work of bringing my snake along.

I purchased a lovely woven basket with a sturdy latch from the Bombay Company.  Make sure the basket is a woven type so that air can circulate. I put a nice towel down on the bottom of the basket.  I also purchased a heavy-duty water bottle at the pharmacy, and I always fill it with very warm water, and wrap it inside the towel.  My snake seems to love his travel home: it is cozy and warm, and keeps him contented for the trip.  I also seat belt the basket in the car, if you stop the car short, the basket and snake will go flying through your car, and you wouldn’t want that to happen!

I never perform with my snake if he has just eaten.  I learned that the hard way!  I was dancing at our local Humane Society chapter’s big annual fundraiser. I was on stage with African Drummers, and a fire dancer.  During the dress rehearsals the day before, as I lifted him above my head, he vomited the contents of his rat meal that he had the night before all over me, my hair, my $800 costume, the stage, etc.  (I do mean all over!)  I was glad that it happened during dress rehearsal and not during the show itself (in front of 1,500 people)!  Thank goodness that there were showers in the place!  It took me five washings in cold water and Woolite to get the smell out of my costume!  I should not even mention shampooing my hair three times.

Another important tip is to handle your snake frequently.  That way, your snake will be used to being handled, and used to your smell, thereby making it much easier to perform with him.

Snakes cannot be trained like dogs can, but they can become tamed, and one way to tame them is to handle them frequently.

Before you go to pick your snake up, always make sure you wash your hands thoroughly.  If you have the scent of food on your hands, your snake will think you are his dinner, and he will strike. 

There are a few ways to present your snake to the audience; the easiest way is to just arrive on stage with your snake.  The more dramatic way is to lift your snake out of its basket on stage.  (It is more tricky, of course.)  I always lift the lid of the basket slowly, so as not to startle him.  I always stroke the snake once or twice, before I start lifting him out of his basket.  Sometimes he will come up all curled up in a ball, and no amount of manipulation is going to change his mind.  Other times, he will come out of the basket little by little, and it is an awesome spectacle!  The last time I performed with my snake in Denver at the Bellydance Superstars Show, he behaved amazingly!  He was compliant. He came out of the basket little by little, flicked his tongue a lot, and stayed stretched out, without wanting to curl up in a ball.  Other times, though, I’ve danced with him when all he wanted to do was curl up in a ball and hide.

Whenever you dance with a snake, people will be amazed, and the show will always get a great audience reaction.  However, you must remember that your snake is a pet, a live animal, and must not become “thrown about” on stage.  You need to move your snake slowly, and if you are going to spin with it, keep it above your head, and don’t spin more than 2 or 3 times.  You wouldn’t like to be spun around quickly for a long time, and neither would your snake! 

Dancing with a snake for me is very primal, and strong.  I respect the energy of the dance when I have my snake with me, and respect my snake.  It has been an amazing adventure and journey for me, as I have learned through trial and error. 

I hope my experiences help you to decide whether or not dancing with a snake is right for you. My snake and I wish you and your snake a happy and long dance journey together.

6 week old puppy!

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