If a pride of performing lions, daredevil aerialists or blindfolded tumblers jumping through hoops formed by razor-edged sabers don't amaze audiences, the Urias family can be counted on to rev up the crowd.
Riding customized Yamaha 125cc motorcycles at speeds up to 60 mph, these bikers zip around the inside of a 16-foot-wide steel cage, sometimes passing as close as 6 inches to each other.
The Urias family's Globe of Steel is one of the death-defying stunts you have to see to believe in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Zing Zang Zoom Gold Edition Circus. The circus presents five shows today through Sunday in McKenzie Arena.
Erwin Urias said in a telephone interview this week that he and his brother, Melvin, are the fourth generation in their family to follow in the tracks of their great-grandfather, Joaquin Urias, who created the globe act in 1912.
The third motorcyclist joining them in the cage is Melvin Urias' fiancee, Olga Surnina.
Erwin Urias said he started riding at age 3 and made his debut in the family's globe at age 13. His 10-year-old son is training to become the fifth generation to continue the family legacy.
Entering the steel cage one by one, the three motorcyclists will amaze audiences with the gravity-defying circles they loop around the cage while moving at freeway speeds.
But the family's signature stunt involves placing a woman in the center of the globe. She stands unflinching while three cyclists orbit around her. This fearless female is Erwin's wife, Jodie, an accomplished aerialist.
"We've changed the act to push the bar," said Urias.
"We suspend my wife. She is lifted to the top center of the globe where she revolves, suspended by her neck, and the motorcycles do zigzag patterns around her."
Erwin said he and his brother will be on hand at the all-access preshow one hour before each performance.
"We have a couple of the motorcycles out, and visitors can actually see them and see there are no magnets in the wheels," he said.
Contact Susan Pierce at email@example.com or 423-757-6284.
If You Go
What: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
When: 7 p.m. today; 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday.
Where: McKenzie Arena, Fourth and Mabel streets.
Admission: $12 to $38, plus service charge.
Ticketholders should plan to arrive at the arena one hour before their showtime, with camera in hand, for the All-Access Preshow.
Visitors will be allowed into center ring, get to meet the performers and see some of the exotic animals.
They also may register for one-of-a-kind artwork created by one of Ringling Bros.' Asian elephants.
Thrills and Chills
Watch illusionist David DaVinci attempt to escape a straitjacket while suspended above a den of lions.
Hairdaring Duo never have bad hair days. Their "extreme hair hang" is presented 35 feet in the air.
The Kung Fu Kings combine martial arts with feats of strength such as twisting solid metal poles around their bodies.
Hans Klose's 10 pups will jump through hoops to please him. The animal athletes also do back flips, high jumps and dive from 16-foot platforms.