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                                                      Kalbeliya dance

The Kalbeliya dance, also called "snake dance" began in Rajasthan, in the northwestern province of India. Created by the gypsy caste kalbeliyas, or saperas, which are nomads that travel through the Thar desert or set up their camps at the edge of large cities.
Traditionally, the kalbeliya caste are snake charmers. Even today they are called upon to heal people that have been bitten by snakes or scorpions.
Tribal kalbeliyan women would dance and create group "happenings". Women from this caste were allowed to dance in public, outside of the community, in a group, and only during the Holi periods of the year and during festivities within the tribe.The women's face, always covered in a veil called "chunni".

Kalbeliya women at the gypsy camp of Pushkar

                            Kalbeliya women at the gypsy camp of Pushkar. Photograph : Véronique Guillen

The Kalbeliya dance that we can actually see on stage today was mainly developped by the famous gypsy dancer Gulabi Sapera.
Gulabi, or better known in India as Gulabo, is undoubtably the person most responsible for bringing to these castes a certain national and international reknown…Nowadays she is known in a great part of the sub-continent and within the diaspora as the little Gypsy who even astounded Rajiv Gandhi with her snake dance.
Gulabi was inspired by reptilian movements, so important to her community, and elaborated her own artistic language, changing what used to be a collective experience into a highly developed solo dance form and improvisation. She revolutionized the way women dance within her community by transforming the dance into a unique individual experience and into an artistic form on it's own.
Her own genius and her heredity has created this unique language in movement, and has, at the same time, broken social and cultural taboos about dancing the kalbeliya.
The Sapera dance that we can also see on stage today is also attributed to a youthful Gulabi Sapera. Her style has become an identitary symbol for her caste and for an indian and international audience. Young dancers, notably Suwa Devi, so admirable in Tony Gatif's film "Latcho drom", have followed in the steps of Gulabi and have enriched the dance through their own experiences and personalities…

Gulabi Sapera

                                                        Gulabi Sapera. Photograph: Louis Vincent

In November 2010 UNESCO has officially added the kalbeliya dance to it's listing of human cultural inheritance…
Kalbeliya dancing is an expressive, sensual and dynamic form of dance based essentially upon improvisation.
The danser improvises following the melody initiated by the Pungi player, who himself is actually reacting to the dancer’s propositions. The percussionists also contribute by listening, reflecting and accentuating the dancer’s improvisation.
The snake dance consists mainly of constant whirling forms which the dancer develops into an almost trance-like rhythm for an indefinite length of time.
The audience is always seduced by the grace and flexibility of the kalbeliya dance, it's serpent-like movements, it’s fiery energy and the power of it’s expression.

(Sources : Titi Robin)

Maria Robin and the Kalbeliya dance

Although having been immersed in the rajasthani gypsy culture in her childhood, it was only during her first trip to India, as a teenager, that Maria began to seriously study traditional kalbeliya dances and songs.
Maria has been trained by her guide and teacher Gulabi Sapera, and performed many times alongside her in India within the troupe "Gulabo Sapera and party".
For Maria, the artistic language of kalbeliyan dancing provides a perfect balance between power and finesse, energy and softness, allowing her to express the utmost of her sensibility through dancing.
Maria teaches gypsy dancing from Rajasthan in Paris and offers workshops and Masterclasses in France and throughout Europe.

Maria Robin is dancing at Gypsy dance Fest in Madrid.

Maria Robin is dancing for the "Settimana delle danze orientali" in Roma.


Find out about Maria Robin’s classes and workshops on gypsy dances from Rajasthan.