Circus Mom’s Life is a Juggling Act
By Charlotte Bowman, editor
© 2012 – Muscogee Moms LLC, www.muscogeemoms.com
Sometimes motherhood can feel like a three-ring circus – from balancing work and family life, to juggling bills and taming your toddler or tween’s wild behavior. Muscogee Moms recently had the opportunity to talk with Jodie Urias, a performer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Barnum Bash, a show coming to the Columbus Civic Center in February.
Jodie performs in the Urias Family Daredevils’ Globe of Death, a gripping, high-speed act that features three motorcycles orbiting around in a 16-foot steel sphere. She has the unique job of being hoisted up in the air by a rope and performing a neck spin during their death-defying finale. In addition, Jodie is a solo artist on the trapeze, aerial chiffon and lira (aerial hoop), as well as participates in a combined aerial display with her brother-in-law’s fiance, Olga Surnina.
In our interview, this graceful acrobat and daring mother of two opens up about how she juggles motherhood with an on-the-road lifestyle that comes with being a part of the Circus Celebration of the Century!
MM: You’re a first generation circus performer. How did you get involved with the circus?
Jodie: You’ve probably heard the saying, “I ran away and joined the circus.” Well for me, that’s a true story! I was 19 years old when I left home for a summer job with Carson and Barnes Circus. I had no real performing arts experience, but I visited the circus that summer and was fascinated. I wanted to be the girl spinning high in the air.
A woman from Columbia taught me how to climb and do an aerial act called the “Spanish Web.” I quickly had to conquer my fear of heights. My whole body would ache from practicing. I was using muscles I didn’t know existed. Two weeks after I started training, I auditioned for the show and landed the part. It was so gratifying.
MM: When and how did you and your husband meet?
Jodie: I met my husband, Erwin Urias, while I was performing with the George Carden Circus. He was a fourth generation troupe member of the Urias Family Daredevils. Several years later, we got married. Now we have two children, an 11-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. I began performing in the Globe of Death several years ago when Erwin’s mother had to leave the tour on a family emergency.
MM: How do you prepare for each show?
Jodie: Daily prayer – it’s true! What we do is very dangerous, and we take it very seriously. Not only do we have to be physically ready to perform, we have to be mentally, spiritually and emotionally ready. I stretch and do jumping jacks. My entire body has to be ready. It’s fine when the weather is warm, but harder when it’s cold outside. I really have to take care of myself.
Because computer graphics do things that are humanly impossible, I think live entertainment is often taken for granted. Some people don’t always comprehend that these stunts are really dangerous. It’s raw talent that has been refined and created into this beautiful aerial act. We do it for the appreciation of the audience and we want to hear it in their applause and cheering.
MM: Tell us what it’s like to raise children in the circus.
Jodie: People may not realize it, but the circus is a very family-oriented environment. Because we’re traveling 48 to 50 weeks a year, we have to homeschool our kids. One of the benefits of performing with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® is having a full-time teacher who travels with us. There are a nursery and daycare for the smaller children who need to be looked after during the show. My kids are in school five days a week. They have to make up their homework when they miss days. There are other parents who travel with the circus, and we trade off childcare with other moms in the show.
MM: What is a typical circus week like?
Jodie: Mondays are travel days. Tuesdays are our days off. That’s when we get our laundry done, go to the market and do any sightseeing with the kids. Usually we’ll take the kids to a museum or aquarium. On Wednesdays, we set up the show and have any publicity appointments. Thursdays through Sundays are our performance days. We tear down Sunday afternoons.
MM: What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you during a show?
Jodie: We don’t always have good hair days. I like to wear my own hair, but sometimes you have to wear a hairpiece so all the girls will look the same. Once, my hairpiece came off in the middle of an act! I was giggling so hard, I could hardly contain myself!
MM: What is the most advanced maneuver you perform in the show?
Jodie: We always wanted to incorporate an aerial stunt in the Globe of Death but didn’t have the time or space to do it. My husband’s family has been doing this since 1912, and we wanted to be the first to have someone levitated inside the Globe. We finally designed the apparatus we needed. It’s so exciting to be the first ones to do the stunt. It’s dangerous and hard. I take it very seriously. There is no room for error. I’m hanging by the back of my neck with motorcycles zooming at 60 miles per hour just inches from my body. My husband, brother-in-law and his fiance are the cyclists. We put a lot of trust in each other.
MM: What is the most challenging aspect of being a mother and circus performer?
Jodie: For me, it’s walking that fine line between being a good role model for my kids and still being in the entertainment industry. Sometimes those two things don’t go hand in hand. I have standards, and I refuse to lower them. We’ve had offers to be in places that we’ve turned down, because I want to look my kids in the eye and be proud of what work I’ve done. I want my kids to be proud of me. I want to be a good parent and good role model.
MM: There is a certain element of danger in your job. How do you feel about your kids following in the footsteps of the Urias Family Daredevils?
Jodie: This will be their choice. We educate them scholastically in addition to teaching them circus skills. They will have to decide what their life calling is; I can’t make that decision for them. They love to help us with our work. We practice with our kids and teach them our trade, but we also want them to make their own decisions about what they want to be.
Editor’s Note: Jodie Urias also teaches hoop fitness and hoop dance classes, as well as performs hoop dances. She invites audience members of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents BarnumBash into the ring to hoop with her and get Circus Fit (www.circusfit.com).
If You Go:
What: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Barnum Bash
When: Thursday, February 23 at 7 p.m.; Friday, February 24 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, February 25 at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; and Sunday, February 26 at 2 p.m.
Where: Columbus Civic Center
Cost: Ticket Prices start at $15 and go up to $30 per person. Tickets can be purchased at the Columbus Civic Center Box Office, located at 400 4th Street; online at www.TicketMaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. Opening Night tickets just $10 with the exception of VIP and VIP floor seats.
For more information: visit www.Ringling.com.
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Please contact Charlotte Bowman, Muscogee Moms LLC, at
(706) 888-0260 or [email protected] for duplication/publication use.