As a ceremonial performance artist, Jim Berenholtz specializes in an ancient yogic dance form using live snakes. He began his snakedancing career in 1989, on the first evening of the "Year of the Snake", with his original reptilian partner, a Burmese python known as Kalpan (short for "Tlahuizkalpantekuhtli").

Today Jim performs with as many as eleven live pythons and boas that cover him from head to foot by the climax of his show. Some of these snakes can weigh as much as seventy pounds each. It is a spectacle unique to the world of snakedancing.

Jim's choreography draws not only from ancient India, but from Balinese classical dance, Hawaiian kahiko hula, Aztec and African dance, and ancient Egyptian and Mayan ritual movement. All of these he has studied over many years, including on site in the various countries where these traditions are based. But above all, it is the snakes themselves who directly inspire Jim's choreography. Through careful observation of both their movement and their stillness, he has learned to dance with his snakes so that they become extensions of each other's bodies.

Jim appears both as a soloist and with other dancers who work with snakes. He has performed as a member of the Velocity Circus Troupe, as well as with belly dancers, modern dancers, and everything in between. He has appeared as a snakedancer throughout California, from private parties to nightclubs; at theatres, festivals and gallery openings; on television, film and video.

Venues where Jim has appeared as a Snakedancer:

Los Angeles Theater Center
The Greek Theater (Los Angeles)
Universal Studios (Studio City)
Sowden House (Hollywood)
Ponana Souk Nightclub (West Hollywood)
Museum Cafe (Pasadena)
Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center
California Men's Gathering (Malibu)
Venice Circus Arts Festival (Venice Beach)
Coconut Grove Nightclub (San Francisco)
Mercury Super Club (San Francisco)
The Metreon (San Francisco)
The Galleria/"Hell Ball" (San Francisco)
San Francisco Gift Center/"Fetish Ball" '04 & '05
Somarts Gallery/"Digital Be-In" (San Francisco)
Peoplesoft Party/Treasure Island (San Francisco)
"Turning the Tide" Tsunami Relief Benefit (San Francisco)
The Eagle/Bare Chest Calendar Event
(San Francisco)
Skywalker Sound (Marin County)
Harbin Hot Springs Conference Center (Sonoma County)

Television Appearances
  "Strange Universe" Halloweeen Special
"Sex and Spirit Explorer Series" - Marin Cable TV
Fox TV News (San Francisco)
"Eyes" - rock music video
Armenian Cable TV (Burbank)
Among the celebrities who Jim has Danced for are:
  Tom Cruise
Nicolle Kidman
Jim Carey
Sandra Bullock
Aidan Quinn
Terry Gilliam
Michael Keaton
Robert Towne
Bob Evans
Sheryl Lee
Helmut Newton
Demi Moore
Bruce Willis
Charles Bronson
Gerald Arpino (Joffrey Ballet)

 

Snakedance Reviews

“Jim Berenholtz, with his 8 ft python, performed one of the most amazing and scintillating dances I have ever seen. A man with a snake is incredibly erotic. (I could hardly believe what that snake was doing). During the dance, Jim played four different, great, long bamboo flutes; firstly a bass, then a tenor, and then an alto. For the climax he played two 4 ft long flutes, leaning them out like great tusks, with the beautiful 8 ft python all draped down his body. An incredible sight to behold.
Later in the evening this same man played the hottest piano riff I’ve heard in years.”


- Judith Elliot for Bolinas Hearsay News, 1989

 

 

“Six performers . . . gave us a blockbuster experience in a small theatre space in San Francisco May 21-23, 1998. . . A running thread holding the acts together was the playing of pipes by Jim Berenholtz dressed as Pan. He was extremely accomplished at pipes of all sizes and shapes, and other instruments he has collected and learned from indigenous peoples around the world. His poise and strongly muscled body was also a joy to behold in a dance with snakes - huge boa constrictors and pythons. ...”

- Felicia Freudiger for the Human Awareness Institute Community Journal, 1998