Make us your home page
Instagram

Motocross madness of Nuclear Cowboyz adds Eastern twist (w/video)

Zhao Heng started his career in entertainment showing Shaolin martial arts across the United States with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus — and this weekend Heng and seven other Shaolin warriors will perform with the motocross madness of the Nuclear Cowboyz at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The addition of the Shaolin warriors to this year's popular freestyle motocross show brings a new Eastern theme for the pyrotechnic-heavy Nuclear Cowboyz show, where riders play out a narrative in the air, on the tracks and with a maze of synchronized and choreographed tricks.

For the script this year — its fifth in Tampa — the good freestyle motocross riders set out to defeat a sorceress and her minions hell-bent on total domination.

It wasn't Heng's original goal after years of study to master the kung fu style. Still, the travel suits him and he enjoys showing his skills to others.

"We all studied at the Shaolin Temple," Heng said through an interpreter, when the circus producers came and recruited them from China. "I like Florida," he said. "But my favorite American city is Washington, D.C. It's beautiful."

Heng and crew perform sword stunts, an amazing metal break with bare hands and fantastic fight sequences to fill the spaces between motorcyclists jumping a ramp and doing seat grabs usually reserved for the X Games.

Jeremy "Twitch" Stenberg, a 16-time X Games medalist, returns to the Nuclear Cowboyz show as leader of the good guys after leaving for a time to be with family.

"I wanted to be home with my kids," he said. "They let you travel home in between tour dates, but I wanted to take a break for them."

Back in business, his motorcycle has been given a golden paint job, a designation that allows viewers to follow the show and identify the leaders even when they have their helmets on.

"It's so comfortable because I'm out here riding with guys that I've known for years," Stenberg said. "There's a level of trust that goes into it."

The trust is never so apparent as when the Cowboyz perform quad jumps — jumps where four riders power up the ramp at the same time and then attempt seat grabs while hurtling through the air next to each other.

One foot of imprecision could cause a deadly wreck.

During the 12 days of initial practice and staging in December, stunt choreographer Micky Dymond said the riders' focus helped the rehearsals progress without a single accident.

"The biggest thing is remembering the next trick," he said. "So I created cue cards for them to glance at when they come back into the tunnel."

Adding to that chaos, the Shaolin warriors had a language barrier that made it difficult for the director to change blocking quickly.

"They were very patient," Heng said. "It's interesting to see what they do."

The interest goes both ways.

"The warriors fit well into the show, I think," Stenberg said. "They help tell the story in a different way this year."

Tampa is the eighth stop in the 15-city tour that was mounted at Palmetto's new Feld Entertainment Studios, which houses Ringling Bros. and several other live touring shows. Expect fireworks, flaming motorcyclists, tricks you shouldn't try at home and a loud pulsating trap/dubstep/metal soundtrack.

The choreographed nature makes the show extremely kid-friendly, but the tricks can stun adults as well. Riders won't be the only ones grabbing their seats.

If you go

Nuclear Cowboyz

The freestyle motocross show is at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa, at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $20-$100. Call (813) 301-2500 or go to tampabaytimesforum.com.

Motocross madness of Nuclear Cowboyz adds Eastern twist (w/video) 02/18/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 4:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of June 26-July 2.

    Events

    Vans Warped Tour: The festival returns Saturday to St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park, featuring shock-metal icons Gwar, hardcore punks Sick Of It All, ska band Save Ferris and indie-pop group Never Shout Never ($39.50-$49.50). vanswarpedtour. …

    Crowd for the Motionless in White band at the 2014 Vans Warped Tour at Vinoy Park, Friday, July 25, 2014.  CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times
  2. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of …

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  3. What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

    Selfie of Divya Kumar and Anand Kumar at Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert.
  4. Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador

    Blogs

    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]