Accepted Paper:

Dancing the cobra  


Marie-Aude Ravet

Paper Short Abstract:

The Kalbeliya community in Rajasthan used to live from snake charming. With the new difficulty to keep snakes, women have created a dance imitating the moves of the cobra. The paper will highlight the specific postures adopted to imitate the snake, as I saw them during my stays with the Kalbeliyas.

Paper long abstract:

The Kalbeliyas are a community living in Rajasthan, India, in the Thar desert. Formerly a nomadic community, they tend to settle down around larger cities though some of them do continue to travel from town to town. Originally, the Kalbeliyas were assigned the role of snake charmers. This included not only the charming of cobras in the street but also the skills of catching snakes in houses as well as preparing remedies.

However, in the past thirty years, their occupation has progressively switched to dancing. In fact, since charming cobras has been prohibited by Indian laws, the women of the community have overtaken the role of the animal, starting to dance publicly to the sound of the pungi, the snake charmer flute. An art long hidden from the general audience, Kalbeliya dance had to re-invent itself to achieve the transition from a folk dance to a show dance. Taking from their century-long cohabitation with reptiles, Kalbeliya women have added specific movements to the regular movements and postures of Rajasthani dances and created a new audience-oriented art form, as snake charming once was.

This paper will discuss how Kalbeliya dancers transformed their informal dance into a cobra dance by the use of specific postures and movements as I have seen them performed during my numerous stays in a Kalbeliya community near Jodhpur. As a professional dancer, I will round off the presentation by a performance with authentic music and costume.

Panel MB-AMS10
Dancing goose: moving with and moving like animals