In 1969, Jamila rescued a snake from a magician whom she felt was mistreating the animal. At first, no one wanted to perform with the snake, so Jamila developed the snake dance by trial and error over time. The snake dance was one of the fantasy dances and was not meant to represent a traditional Middle Eastern dance. Eventually, more dancers obtained their own snakes, and a mesmerizing group number was developed. Audiences often commented about being hypnotized by the movements of the snake dancers who entered with the stylistic head slides and circles from Jamila’s step vocabulary. The snake dance is often done as a solo, duet, or group; dancers maintain and dance with their own pet snakes.
Bal Anat Snake and Water Glasses
The Snake Dance
The Water Glass Dance
The water glass dance, where a dancer performs while balanced on three glasses, was another dance that Jamila added to the Bal Anat show. Jamila was inspired by drawings of Ghawazees dancing on wine goblets and by Fatima Akef* who often danced on water glasses. Jamila was the first Bal Anat performer to dance on water glasses, and even combined the water glass and snake dance. Jamila taught her water glass method in her classes, and other dancers eventually rotated into that solo spot. The water glass dance was an occasional act rather than a consistent part of every Bal Anat performance. Water glasses can break, and flooring for the dance needed to be conducive for scooting the glasses as well as level and clear. The current water glass dance is often performed in solos, duets, or trios; the updated dance features back bends, splits, and vibrations.
*Fatima was the sister of Naima Akef, one of the great Egyptian cinema dance stars of the 1940s. Fatima was a contemporary of Jamila’s who danced in West Club nightclubs. Fatima Akef had various elements in her dance including cameo appearances from her parrot, Lara, and dancing on water glasses.