A little fear, Olga Surnina says, is healthy when performing in front of a large circus crowd night after night.
But too much fear? That, the daredevil rider says, can be dangerous.
As Surnina revs her custom 125cc motorcycle at speeds of up to 60 mph, prepping to ride inside a steel globe that is only 16 feet in diameter, she has to think not only of her own safety, but the safety of the other two riders sharing the tight space with her.
There is no room for error.
"Being scared will throw you off the right track," says Surnina, a Kazakhstan native who has been performing the stunt for five years. "You have to pay attention to each other."
Surnina is part of the Urias family's daring motorcycle globe riding act, one of the many attractions that will be part of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's newest production, "Barnum Bash." After five years, the famous circus returns to Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall for a four-day event, beginning Thursday, April 19, and running through Sunday, April 22.
This year's circus, billed as a "party for the whole family," will feature floor seating, performances set to contemporary pop music and - new this year - a pre-show party on the floor before showtime.
Skilled acrobats, the world's strongest man, exotic circus animals, and - yes - circus clowns, will all be a part of the greatest show on earth.
"Ringling Bros. brings excitement and a lot of fun … the biggest circus party of the century," Surnina says. "And this year Ringling Bros. opens the back stage to the public. We have a fun pre-show. There's a lot to the show. You've got the world's strongest man, there are Cuban acrobats - and of course the globe of steel."
Erwin and Melvin Urias' great-grandfather, Joaquin, created the high-speed motorcycle stunt after he invented the globe in 1912. The steel orb has been in the Urias family for more than 80 years and has been a fan favorite at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
Surnina, Melvin Urias' girlfriend, joined the act in 2007, after three years of intense training.
"You have to learn to balance inside," Surnina says. "How to move to get your balance right. Stopping and going is probably the hardest part. Nerve-wracking is the best way to describe it."
The troupe's act begins as two motorcyclists enter the globe and demonstrate their skills. A third motorcyclist enters. The trio executes dangerous maneuvers at high speeds, as well as several pattern changes that are signaled by the rev of their engine.
"It takes a lot of concentration," Surnina says. "It takes a certain instinct to pay attention to other things, like the noises. You just have to always be prepared to stop or ride longer for whatever reason. You just always concentrate."
"The first time I got in the globe, (Urias) said right away that I have it - that I have it in me," Surnina says. "That was a big motivation. He was my role model."
For the stunt's grand finale, which was created especially for the show, aerialist Jodie Urias (Erwin Urias' wife) is hoisted up in the air by a rope and performs a neck spin inside the globe - while the riders orbit inches away from her body.
Surnina knows there are those who think she may be crazy to risk injury - even death - to perform a daredevil stunt like globe riding night after night. But the former aerialist, who remains one of the few female globe riders in the world, would not have it any other way.
Even during her time off, she says, she misses performing.
"I love it. I love it," Surnina says. "I have the passion and I love the feeling of excitement and adrenaline rushing through my blood. I guess I have a little daredevil in me."