image from Janusmuseum
While searching for snake dances I discovered a stunning dance by American actress Debra Paget in the Orientalist German film, Indische Grabmal, Das -1959, directed by Fritz Lang…Debra wears a long black Indian braid and a nude coloured leotard that gives the impression she is just barely covered by a few pieces of silvery material…as she dances seductively before a large puppet cobra, in an underground temple to the “Goddess Sita” surrounded by white actors in brown make-up. Whether its Bollywood exoticizing the west or Fritz Lang exoticizing the east…some of the most striking performances come out of this exoticization…because it always seems “mysterious” to pretend to be something that seems out of reach, hidden behind veils of unfathomable traditional beliefs. I enjoy watching these dated exoticizations because what with satellite tv and travel becoming easier and easier…I guess we’re running out of places to exoticize as being “far far away”…and the accessibility of foreign locals doesn’t necessarily mean the diminishment of resentment for the “other”…it just means that the other has become something less obscure…more in your face…the world one large reality tv set with less hidden corners.
No one can forget Shridevi’s snake dance in “Nagina” 1989, with her her big beautiful piercing blue contact lensed eyes, her silvery costume, and the epic battle between a snake woman who loves her human man…and a corrupted yogi with his trishul and his snake-charmer flute(the incredible Amrish Puri)…I find that the film (one of my all-time favorites) plays out two social parables at once;the first being…don’t assume that a snake is evil just because it is different (non-human)…but also…mother-in-law’s; if you don’t do a better background check on your son’s potential bride “tera bap kaun hai?”…you may discover your new bahu is a snake. But then, ultimately if you do discover your daughter-in-law is a snake…mind your own business. Don’t try to wreck your son’s marriage. Otherwise you will get stabbed by a trishul and die. The dance here takes place when the evil yogi tries to put the Nagina under his spell and she sings defiantly to him though she is unable to resist dancing… Check out her cobra kung fu moves at the end of the clip as she wipes out the yogis minions… lyrics for this song “mein teri dushman dushman” mean :
I am your enemy and you are my enemy-I am the snake and you are the snake charmer-since many life times we are both enemies- God will set everything straight-Today I will surely take revenge-Don’t tease me otherwise I’ll bite you-Magic and black magic are my toys-You will not be able to control me- I am a snake you are the snake charmer-By playing your pipe-you are trying to lure me-I am not going to come under your control- I will not be lured! a Saint has come as a dacoit-I am a snake you are the snake charmer-my story is on everyone’s lips-The one who I bite dies painfully-Everyone will see this drama-Lets see what happens now-You will not see tomorrow morning-I am a snake you are a snake charmer-
This is a pretty funny spoof on Shridevi’s snake dance…from the film hit, “Bride and Predjudice” 2004 also known in India as “Balle Balle Amritsar to L.A.” In case you haven’t seen it, its Gurinder Chadha’s comedic adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and in this scene one of the daughters, Maya (Meghna Kothari)
image from hindu
does a Shri-devi “cobra dance” to attempt to impress the house guests…but she gets a little carried away at the end and starts hissing at everyone and pretending to bite them with her cobra-hand-fangs.
And this just an interesting find…apparently the Snakedance is a lost dance form out of southern India. There are only 3 women in America who practice it. This is one of them…the dance style is completely different from the Bollywood Shridevi style…looks like it has some relation to belly-dancing…anyway she’s a lovely dancer…very slinky.
image from guboards