Belly dancer and… snake charmer!

Thanks to Lia Vinova, talented multidisciplinary artist, for answering to our interview full of information and discoveries.

What does a snake charmer number consist of?

A Snake Charmer act is a show staged with snakes. We say "charming" the snakes because it is a question of knowing how to "tame" them, knowing them well to respect their needs and being allowed to enter their space and make them want to enter ours. When we charm, we seduce, and make the other feel good. And this is what helps build that "trust" and a certain "habit" allowing the other, in this case the snake, to let itself be pushed around.

How do you practice Bellydancing while managing and playing with the reptile(s)? Which abilities are necessaries?

Oriental dance allows you to evolve in movements similar to those of snakes. A lot of isolation, slowness, roundness can be done, which is very suitable for this reptilian partner. The snake comes to take its bearings on the body and evolves in contact with the dancer. The more we know the way it moves and the better you can create a symbiotic dance with him. You must keep in mind that the well-being of the animal comes before everything; it is in no way a dance accessory. It is a full partner.
You must leave space for improvisation and work on the choreographies with this "constraint", because the snake has its own rhythm. It is an interesting and very inspiring work for a dancer, which I go into in depth in my SNAKE DANCE workshops.

Are there any constraints or elements that you have to take into account when choosing your Bellydance costume for your performances?

It is important to choose your stage costumes well when dancing with snakes. There should not be any hazardous materials which could hurt the animal. We tend to avoid things that catch on or large hoop earrings that are too big in which they could get caught easily, or fabrics that are too slippery that do not allow them a good crawl, especially when starting out. Which is not easy as a tribal-fusion dancer because we like big pieces of jewelry, the various Bellydance belts, etc.

With practice and by knowing partners well, we are increasingly able to adapt and have fun with oriental dance costumes. But in general, the dancer's body remains the snake’s support; obstacles must be avoided if you want beautiful fluidity.

How was your passion for reptiles born and also your desire to combine them with your artistic talents and make it your job?

Since I was a kid, I’ve been attracted by snakes. The visceral need to meet and share something with them came when I was about 16 years old.
After my artistic path (theater, cinema, song and dance), life offered me the opportunity to produce myself thanks to a showbiz professional neighbor who allowed me to get started. I was able to combine my artistic work with my passion for snakes and make it my profession.

For what kind of services or events do we call you for this number?

It is an appealing number first of all because of its rarity, and also the encounter with an impressive exotic animal. I’m called for memorable events: birthdays, weddings, seminars, product launches, fairs, festivals, unusual shows... it can come from businesses as well as individuals.
Directors and photographers (for commercials, films, or personal work) call me to create customized numbers or accompany their actors or models on projects with snakes.
Following several requests, I also opened workshops to discover the work of the charmer and familiarize oneself with snakes in a relaxed atmosphere. SNAKE & DRINK celebrated its 7th birthday and was adapted digitally, so you can approach snakes with interposed screens before trying for real if you are afraid, or to bring an original touch to the current aperitifs by videoconferencing. 
Thanks to these workshops, I helped several people to get rid of their phobias, some even welcomed snakes in their homes since.
GOÛTEZ AU SERPENT is a workshop for children, it is often chosen for birthdays. SNAKE A POSE allows one to be accompanied for a professional photo always with snakes.
I was also often asked to start dance lessons; this is why I created SNAKE DANCE.  I founded SNAKE CIRCLE three years ago, an artistic and events agency, for which I’m in charge of the shows and stage our clients’ events, surrounded by artists from my circle met during these 17 years of experience throughout the artistic world with snakes and fire.
Like the workshops, I had a strong demand for the organization of artistic platforms and I decided to answer to it.

Are you required to follow legal formalities or security guarantees and if so, which ones?

A certificate of capacity for public presentation (CDC), an authorization to open a business (AOE), and professional insurance are required for this job. This is a legal obligation. 

You also offer “snake dance” lessons in workshops. What is it and what is the program? What is the profile of the trainees attending these?

In SNAKE DANCE you learn the techniques for dancing with snakes, a workshop certificate can be issued as part of a request for a certificate of ability.
Attendees meet the snakes, learn how to let them enter their space and then explore the one they offer. We usually start with an introductory circle so that everyone feels comfortable and understands the process. A guided meditation specially created to guide you into the ideal state for practicing with snakes, we warm up, learn a fairly simple choreography, then we discover our snake partners to put into practice all this preparation and dance with them!
The trainees are as much people interested in an unusual experience as professional dancers willing to bring new energy to their practice.

How many reptiles do you have and what material, financial and time investments does it require on a daily basis?

Currently I’m living with 6 snakes. A room is dedicated to them, everyone has their own home. It is a financial investment at the beginning and then to maintain the terrariums, heating (snakes cannot warm up by themselves and therefore need an external heat source: each terrarium has a heating mat on thermostat, connected non-stop).
Like for every animal, it takes time: feed them, look after them, have them taken care of if absent (finding a snake sitter is more complicated than a dog sitter, and even more depending on the species to be looked after...).
Every day, I check if everything is okay, change the water and clean if needed, I watch if they tell me something in their own way. It requires knowledge and special attention. Each snake has its own personality and even if there is a common basis to take care of it, you have to adapt to each one to look after it.

What’s your background in oriental dance and what do you like about it?

Snakes brought me to Bellydance, or rather tribal-fusion dance! Lots of slow movements remind of the snake. Based on the ATS, a codified tribal improvisation dance born in the United States, it is marked with various traditional and contemporary dances such as the flamenco, kathak, Bharata natyam or hip-hop. Some dancers draw their inspiration from it and create their own fusions by bringing their style to it. This is what I tend to explore with the snakes. With a background in jazz and classical, I needed slow and powerful movements to be able to blend in with their energy. So I’m able to dance with them while respecting them. My dance evolved thanks to my passion for snakes, they are a great source of inspiration. I started ATS and tribal-fusion with Linda Martinez then Julie de Saint Blanquat, with whom I took lessons for several years. Angelika, Linda Faoro and Anasma were my teachers in Bellydance fusion. Then I practiced Bharata Natyam with Usha for one year, a little bit of oriental dance with Taly Hanafi, and some tribal-fusion with Louna. I also attended several workshops thanks, especially, to the BellyFusions Festival. This allowed me to travel in different styles of Bellydance, explore many possibilities in order to share these dances with my snakes.

What other artistic disciplines do you practice?

I’m also a Fire charmer: I dance, eat and spit flames. I direct shows especially for my agency SNAKE CIRCLE.

Discover Lia Vinova in a video:

Photo credits: Eddy Lamazzi, Eric Dany, Laurianne Gouley, Eric Dany, Eddy Lamazzi, Eddy Lamazzi, Justine Maillard, Eddy Lamazzi

Posted in: Oriental dancers

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