“When you are dancing on the ground, you are scared of stumbling or losing balance, but when you are suspended mid-air, it’s your life you fear for,” says actor and performer Sushma Veer. For the past three months, she has been experimenting and practising for a dance performance that will involve her being suspended from a hot-air balloon.
The dance show in will combine nine different forms, including Attakkalari, Kalari ballet and Jambu Yoga.
The great granddaughter of Kannada theatre pioneer Gubbi Veeranna, Veer, and other members of the family, began Veer Kathakar five years ago. “Veer Kathakar does one show every year as a tribute and a way of reviving the art and science of theatre that we as his (Veeranna’s) family have picked up,” she explains. The dance show, though not a part of Veer Kathakar, will be a tribute to theatre legends that the current generation most likely will not remember. The names of such legends will be drawn in the sky in a laser show. “The balloon will be lit up so as it passes the city during the big show that we are planning next month at the Palace Grounds in Bangalore. It will catch people’s eyes,” says Shiva Pradeep, Veer’s uncle, who is handling the show with her.
“The balloon is sometimes guided by the wind and can be unpredictable,” says Veer, who has been training with trapeze artistes at the Bombay Circus that has pitched tent in Bangalore right now. She has attempted the mid-air act only once in Chikmagalur, but even when training at the circus, Veer does not use a safety net—it is an effort to make the experience as close to the real thing as possible.
“But the big deal about the show is not just my performance,” adds Veer. “There will be technicians, pilots, people managing fireworks and so on, just to put one show together,” she says, adding the preparation for the show included a lot of research on paragliding and other air-borne adventure sports before they zeroed in the hot-air balloon.
Veer has tied up with the National Adventure Academy for the performance. “When I am up in the air, I feel like a bird and allow the air and the wind to take over. No amount of preparation can assure that there will not be surprises,” she says.
The performance on 12 January Chikmagalur is a preview to a longer show that will be performed in Bangalore in February.