Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ringling Bros. circus' globe of steel, driven by cheers

Juan Carlos Torres leads the Torres Family into the globe of steel during the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, opening Wednesday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus

Juan Carlos Torres leads the Torres Family into the globe of steel during the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, opening Wednesday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Gas fuels the motorcycles as they enter the arena, the sound of their engines slapping the air.

The power comes from the basic internal combustion any mechanic learns on the first day of training. It's a fairly simple reaction.

But what fuels the men and women on the motorcycles as they steer their two-wheelers into a 16-foot metal sphere known as the globe of steel? At first guess, you think insanity. What else, you wonder, prompts a person to engage in this mind-numbing display of centrifugal force, defying gravity by going around and around inside the ball.

They must be crazy, right?

No. The science the Torres Family will exhibit during the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Wednesday through Sunday stands as a more complicated formula. It's unmeasured doses of adrenaline and trust and practice and courage and knowledge.

But it's not insanity.

Most of all, it's the sound of cheers — adults and kids (especially the kids) wildly clapping and whistling — that propel the riders to whiz around inside the ball, taking on real-life challenges by replicating a toymaker's creation.

Like Lady Gaga, they live for the applause.

"The people give us the courage," said Angelo Fuentes, a Torres cousin and one of the daredevils who will perform in the shows. "When we hear the people scream, it's our gasoline."

Ringling talent director David Kiser says the passion that drives the Torres Family lives in almost every circus performer. The instant gratification they get from the audience lights an internal fire that can't be extinguished.

"It's the reason they push the envelope, the reason they perform and put their life on the line every show," Kiser said. "It's the reason they take the risks that they do."

But couldn't they draw cheers by singing karaoke in a crowded bar, or playing softball or soccer in an adult league before a smattering of fans?

Of course not. They deliver thrills and chills to the crowd because that's what they want in return, the goose bumps that rise when the ovation echoes in an arena normally dominated by music and sports superstars.

"When the fans start clapping, you never feel more comfortable," Ariel Torres said. "You don't think scared."

Torres, 43, first engaged in this fearless practice 17 years ago. A motocross rider, he witnessed a show in Argentina and said, "I have to do that."

Now, according to circus officials, the Torres Family holds the record for most motorcycles in a 16-foot sphere with eight — all speeding in a circle at 75 miles per hour.

Others have had more riders, but the sphere is larger.

Such feats don't occur without practice. Fuentes said on days they don't have shows — and sometimes they do three shows in a day — practice will run for two hours. The feats require an immense amount of coordination and timing, but even with precision, the risks remain.

"There is an absolute element of danger they can't control," Kiser said.

Like any circus act, the Torres Family continues to seek and find new ways to add to its act. Torres says they have a "big surprise" for the public.

The latest feat may be so death-defying you may hold your breath. You may be afraid to look. But don't cover your eyes with your hands. Keep clapping.

The Torres Family needs the fuel.

That's all I'm saying.

. if you go

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus presents daredevilry, stunts, clown alley and lots of animals, with this year's all-new blue tour, Legends, summoning mythical creatures of the past including a unicorn, a Pegasus and a woolly mammoth. Shows: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 5 p.m. Sunday. Matinees at 11 and 3 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday. Tampa Bay Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive. $16 $70.

Ringling Bros. circus' globe of steel, driven by cheers 12/27/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 27, 2013 2:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida joins other states in ending 'tampon tax'


    From our friends at the Associated Press:

  2. Rubio, Nelson propose expansion of federal judgeships


    WASHINGTON - Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson today proposed adding a number of federal judges to the state.

  3. Bar review: The Landing at Jannus in St. Petersburg

    Bars & Spirits

    I've spent many evenings in St. Pete's Jannus Live courtyard, enjoying one of the best open-air venues in the Tampa Bay area. It's where I saw my first concert in Florida: Toadies, on the Rubberneck tour sometime in the mid '90s.

    The drinks at the Landing at Jannus in St. Petersburg are about as cheap as you’ll find at any other regular downtown bar, a nice surprise.
  4. Local craft beer of the week: Two Henrys Belleview-Biltmore Blueberry Vanilla Wheat

    Bars & Spirits

    Two Henrys Brewing Company is a unique entity in the Tampa Bay brewing scene, due to both its status as the only brewery in Plant City, as well as its location on a 27-acre working farm, which also includes a winery.

    Photo by Justin Grant
  5. Trump vows to crack down on Manchester leaks, chastises NATO


    BRUSSELS — President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to crack down on leaks that prompted Manchester police to withhold information from the United States about the investigation into this week's bombing. He also chastised NATO leaders for not paying their fair share to protect the long-standing alliance.

    U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by European Council President Donald Tusk as he arrives at the Europa building in Brussels on Thursday, May 25, 2017. Trump arrived in Belgium on Wednesday evening and will attend a NATO summit as well as meet EU and Belgian officials. [Associated Press]