After 'running away' with the circus, Bobek thrivingFormer U.S champion enjoying new-found craft of lyra at Rainbow Circus
"I am the woman who ran away with the circus," said Nicole Bobek, the 1995 U.S. ladies champion and world bronze medalist.
After discovering the Rainbow Circus Miami and its South Florida Circus Art School several years ago, Bobek has enjoyed learning new skills and performing for audiences in Florida.
"When I was still getting back on the bandwagon with the skating, I kind of ventured into a whole new artistic side by taking something different onto the ice," Bobek, 37, said. "That's when I started doing the lyra (aerial hoop). Before you knew it, I was hooked."
As she learned the nuances of the lyra and began trying her hand at contortion and stilt walking, Bobek found herself exhilarated, despite very sore muscles. Today, her body has transformed with more upper-body development. Always an audience favorite in skating, she's also learned new ways of connecting with spectators as she has performed with Rainbow Circus.
"The owner of Rainbow Circus, Laurie Allen, is my circus mom," Bobek said. "She opened her arms without even knowing who I was as a skater or anything like that. I work for her every time I'm in Florida for the past three years. We have little gigs and exciting gigs. It's all great. She's like family to me. It's wonderful."
One gig was at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, an estate that Donald Trump has transformed into an exclusive club. Bobek had met him at various skating events over the years, and he instantly recognized her, which slightly shocked her fellow performers.
She also did the lyra during a Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez performance at the Premios Awards. Bobek loves any and all gigs.
"It can be from the simplest little thing," she noted. "Last weekend, we did a thing in Miami on a tiny stage in a park for little kids. I tell you, they were the happiest children in the world. Just to do something small for them was incredible.
"All the events are fun," she continued. "A chance to get out there and perform. It's in my blood. It's what I do."
After an extremely satisfying return to skating a couple of years ago, Bobek has put ice to the side for the time being. In fact, her skates are at a friend's home in New York. She said she'll put them on and skate when she returns to the Big Apple.
Right now, she's in Florida, continuing to study circus arts as well as spending time with her mother, Jana, and new stepfather, who Jana married earlier this year. Her stepfather has provided her with an extended family she's never previously had. She'll get to spend time with her new relatives when she's in the United Kingdom next year.
In addition to her own circus performing, she's also sharing her life with veteran circus performer Pedro Santos Leal, who spent 11 years touring with Cirque du Soleil Varekai. Earlier this year, she accompanied him on tour in Denmark. In February, he'll start a nine-month UK tour and she will accompany him.
"There are nine generations of circus performers," Bobek said of Leal, who performs Icarian Games, an intricate acrobatic routine he does with his brothers. "There's a very long strand of creative people in the family line."
They compare touring notes, with Varekai and Champions on Ice. Of course, there are some differences, but Bobek is extremely amused by some "mind-blowing" similarities.
"There are endless stories of same situations, same performance anxieties, downfalls, uproars and so many different things," she said. "We can really understand injuries, heartbreak and missing home."
Although not currently performing on ice, Bobek is very satisfied that she was able to get herself back in shape and skate in shows. It took commitment and some struggle, but she was dedicated to seeing it through.
"I wanted to show people there is a light at the end of the tunnel and not to give up on things," she said. "It's not about how we fall, it's about how we get up.
"I've met so many incredible people [through circus]. So many new inspirations in my life. I'm very grateful."