– Do not try this at home….
DVD review of "Belly Dance with Snakes: Embody Your Inner
Review by Surreyya
feel strongly that snake dancing should be taught with supervision,
in person, for the safety of all, mostly the animal. I would
say this to anyone making or considering making a video instructing
on the art of performing with animals. Reptiles are
wild animals. As domesticated as a pet lover may try to
make one, they cannot be trained. That said, snakes
are fascinating creatures, mysterious and intriguing. One
can easily beguile in their beauty. To connect and
share time with a snake can oft make for an otherworldly
experience – for you and for your audience if enough time,
care, research, practice and respect are employed to your
dance practice and performance.
are things in this video I can get behind and things I
can’t. A blessing and a curse of this video is that
there is so much information that it is difficult to navigate
through it all.
said, to provide this much possibility in a world of no guarantees,
meaning, no guarantees you won’t get hurt, and no guarantees
your animal will not get hurt, is leaving a lot to chance.
It is difficult to cover it all, so I’ve grouped my feedback
Overall, the packaging and presentation of materials were nicely designed and
presented; however, it took several viewings and arguments with my remote control
to navigate though the menu. There is really way too much on this video. I
would also have left the performance section for later in the video (it is
at the beginning of the table of contents) as it is easy to let your particular
dance style set the tone for the whole video, as it unfortunately did with
my viewing. I think it seems to work better to view performance secondarily,
as in to see how the instructor utilizes the instructional parts in a performance
setting. Serpentessa does spend a considerable amount of time at the video
introduction highlighting many concerns I initially had with regard to the
respect and handling of snakes.
I, and most others usually bypass the prologue to get to
the instruction – we are a short attention span society
now. The average viewer would likely miss some important
suggestions. She also has a healthy disclaimer.
There is good information inside, but you have to find it. There are tips on
handing and dancing with snakes, along with several postures and progressions
that allow for ease of transition - but there are so many other
performances, options and ideas that it is difficult to get this information
without a couple of viewings. For an experienced snake owner considering
dance, there may be some nuggets of wealth inside. I can truly say I
came away with some added insight.
I would not recommend this video to beginners, or those
newly considering snakes as a pet. There is not enough
newbie care and handling instruction, and safety experts
may argue there are some risky maneuvers contained within.
a positive, the producer here is very engaged and involved
in the love and care of snakes and was moved and motivated
by the positive influence and experiences and health benefits
achieved through dance and her connections with them. I have
no doubt that Serpentessa loves and cares with the utmost
respect for her animals.
There are several positions in this video for snake dancing that I wouldn’t
recommend unless you have been snake dancing for some time, and some I would
avoid entirely regardless of your experience level. For instance:
“Crown Position” with the snake wrapped around the head – snakes love hair. They also love to wrap up in it
and unless your hair has good slip, you are going to get
a mess of snake tangled in your hair. Snake scales can
quickly become Velcro in your perfectly coiffed do. You
stress out, snake stresses out, and it makes for icky possibilities.
If you are on stage and this happens, the mystery is broken
and you look like an amateur with a snake caught in your
hair. Your audience isn’t going to sympathize and they
won’t forgive you either. Serpentessa included such a situation
in the blooper section in her video and I was stressed
out biting my nails reliving past experiences, and equally
impressed with her handling of the situation - only someone
at her level of handling and knowledge of snakes could
recover from such a situation. The only snake I would maybe
trust in this type of position would be a Ball Python,
but they are too tiny and too unwilling to do much else
aren't much to impress a crowd. Most good performance size
snakes should be more than 5 feet long just for presentation
- a larger snake would require a Red Tail Boa or Burmese
Python, and I would avoid placing them in this position
at all – too much of a risk with a snake that large or
“Floor Position” as
suggested with the snake unless you have worked with them
for many years, and even then I may question it. Any time
you inhibit your limbs (i.e. your legs) you compromise
your ability to move, act, proact, react, and your situation
becomes more unpredictable and risky. Also, your vision
is limited - you may not realize you are beating the crap
out of your snake when you pop, shimmy and lock. I have
seen this live, a dancer having no idea she is beating
her snakes head on the floor because she couldn’t see it.
Serpentessa does make a point to discuss handling snakes
while in this position is an advanced movement that takes
a number of years to cultivate and practice. I don’t agree
with placing a snake on the floor regardless of its temperament
or holding its tail while its head etc, is on the floor.
It looks bad and can give an impression of “dirtiness”
to the animal as well as creates a safety risk to it, you
and your audience. It just isn’t a good idea - they
don’t make hermes sandals for boas.
safety advice was lacking from this video - even though some
cautionary statements were made. All in all, there are not
enough of the real possibilities presented nor how to deal
with them. Serpentessa's snakes are used to working with
her and they have been selected for different scenes, instructions
and performances based on their individual temperaments…but
what about you and your Mr. or Ms. Boa?
The particular style of performance on this DVD is not my cup of tea, nor is
the music. There is a lot of contradiction with regard to statements
made by Serpentessa, (a self-declared “Snake Priestess”) about snakes
not being used as ritualistic props, however, ritualistic dances are
being performed, and snakes are in the dances. The “Invoking the Goddess
Dance” I was so entranced by the "big breasts with massive aeriolas" costume
donned by Serpentessa that I didn’t really pay much attention to the
snakes. In the “Snake Goddess Blessingway Dance” there is a very pregnant
Sera snake dancing while Serpentessa and Jehan appear to be looking longingly
at each other. While the end of the dance seemed very sweet and loving
with respect to a mom to be, the beginning disturbed me. This has nothing
to do with a pregnant dancer, which can be quite inspiring and beautiful
to watch. Intended or not, there are overtly sexual undertones conveyed
throughout the performances on this video.
NOTE: As someone who has done her share of walking on the
wild side, even in my liberal-Californian-bleeding-heart-non-judgmental
mind - I interpret the sexual innuendo in these performances
as deliberate shock value and find some of the choreography
and imagery downright tacky and so "out there" I
can't connect to it.
after watching the video 5 or more times to just to make
sure, it was still the same button pushing barely fusion
hippie dancing wrapped in earth mother goddess paper. This
is not at all how I think of snake dancing.
snake is a powerful creature and symbol of many things and
often viewed in a phallic way. Writhing around on a floor
with a snake atop you can conjure up the strangest sexual
baggage in people – the phallic suggestions are endless. A performance
suggestion to other snake dancers - I would take great care
not allowing any end of a snake to position itself in between
or around your legs and/or pubic region and that also happens
from time to time in this video.
dancers can accept a certain amount of goddess interpretation,
and creative thinking as it has its way into performance.
of us do this dance for a different reason, but most of
us have our own personal radar, that goes off when the
escapism gets to be a bit much. At some point, even a goddess
still has to pull up or drive through and get cash out
of the ATM.
“goddess gage” feels a little broken here, and it makes it
difficult for me to connect with the performance material
as presented on this DVD. The performance is too neo-ritualistic
and the music very new age. While I like Jehan’s music,
I’ve already heard it in other videos, and with a lack of
costuming to counter balance the lack of ethnic flavor in
the music, the mystery or enchantment is totally lost for
everyone has different reasons for making a video, I am hoping
one of the top reasons for this one was not to turn a profit
or break even. Though we may feel our world is big
in the dance community or even pet lovers community, there
just wouldn’t be enough consumers for this type of video
to make any money. Also, I wouldn't believe in
the power of a disclaimer vs. lawsuit. Human phobias
of snakes are centuries old and I have yet to see the mass
media portray them in a positive way. This video really
opens up a lot of risky possibilities.
is a lot to see and write about in this video, and it is
obvious many hours of planning and effort went into its creation.
Snake dancing is so subjective and open to many different
interpretations good and bad.
has a lot of experience and knowledge of snakes, and it appears
was so moved by those experiences that she decided to share
them with others. I think the video has good intentions,
but this type of medium doesn't translate the way a workshop
or private lesson would.
have a lot of respect for Serpentessa’s desire to share
her life changing experience with dance and snakes, and
admiration with regard to her personal care and love for
her animals. Snake dancing is such a rewarding and special
experience – I truly hope her video only makes its way
in to the most caring and responsible of hands – to which
I say proceed with caution.
you might consider about snakes if you are buying this video
or considering them as a dance partner:
Don’t get drunk and handle a snake, don’t wear heavy
perfume, don’t get hopped up on caffeine, don’t approach your snake
after a stressful day, don’t wear fresh fake tanner or heavily
scented lotions and handle snakes, don’t’ move quickly or make
sudden gestures. This animal acts and reacts on senses –
make sure yours are in check before you play.
can’t train snakes – they train you.
poop and pee just like a cat or dog, and have minds of
their own. They also don’t “sit” or “stay”.
and caring for snakes are a commitment - they are delicate
and need special care and supervision and constant handling
so they accept you – many people don’t realize what they
are getting into. Handling your friends snake, or playing
with one for 5 minutes at a pet store is much different
than taking it home.
could be a disservice to your snake. There are more exotic
snakes than homes that can care for them.
are not an accessory – they are a delicate and sensitive
creature and should be respected as such. You can’t
get mad at them for being what they are. You may have a
gig booked but they don’t care. If they don’t want to go,
well, too bad.
are already controversial in the dance community. You may
feed that fire. You are also creating a perception
about you, other snake dancers and also snake-less dancers
by what your dance portrays or the message in it. That
includes costuming, posturing, and professionalism. Your
actions can actually speak louder than many and have more
severe repercussions than the average dancer – careful!
eat cute fuzzy creatures. There is no vegan alternative
(yes I’ve been asked). Many snakes won’t eat the frozen/thawed
food variety, and for the snake’s safety, you may have
to help stun or kill a cute fuzzy creature so they don’t
starve and die or get hurt trying to eat (mouse, rat, rabbit).
This is an unfortunate truth.
you are afraid of being bit you shouldn’t consider snakes.
Getting bit will not be the snake’s fault - it will be
because you made an error or did something stupid. Humans
are stupid. We make lots of mistakes. You have to be able
to accept that, mend your ego and move on, recover and
continue to be willing to work with the snake. Most people
will adopt out the animal at that point instead of trying
to work through it. Getting bit can be a huge psychological
blow and can freak you out for days and weeks. You
have to be able to push through that fear and keep going. Granted,
a snake bite is really not that big a deal – a scratch
from my cat is far worse, but the event in itself can be
shocking. Anyone who tries to skirt this very real
factor is not being honest with themselves, or others. On
the other hand, most boa constrictors are gentle by nature,
and the above sentiments are not to scare pet lovers, only
to make the point that inevitably you will mess up somehow
and you need to be a grown up and deal with it as a professional.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
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Thus, the film did expand my visual awareness. Now, did
it deepen or extend my understanding of what that diversity implied?
My response would have to be no.