CIR­CUS MUM BENDS THE RULES

She quit her of­fice job and ran away to join the cir­cus!

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - Real Life -

Skye Broberg doesn’t need to ask any­one that age-old ques­tion, “Does my bum look big in this?” She can an­swer it her­self.

Among other things, Aussieborn, Lyt­tel­ton-based Skye is a world record-hold­ing con­tor­tion­ist. She can, as she so hi­lar­i­ously puts it, “look around at my own butt”. Handy skill or not, it’s just one of the many tal­ents that this cir­cus/fetish/ bur­lesque per­former has.

The 44-year-old’s love af­fair with all things spec­tac­u­lar be­gan 12 years ago, when she ran away to join the cir­cus. She was 32 and work­ing an un­ful­fill­ing of­fice job at the Royal Mel­bourne In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

“I wanted out of the seden­tary job I was do­ing,” Skye re­calls, cud­dling her 15-month-old son Taiga close. “I re­alised that if I didn’t make any changes, then it might be some­thing I’d re­gret later.”

Tak­ing a leap of faith, Skye packed up and flew to New Zealand, where she’d been ac­cepted into a Circo-Arts pro­gramme in Christchurch. Start­ing with aerial work, she went on to train in hula hoop, ada­gio (bal­ance), aerial silks and con­tor­tion.

She’s since folded her lithe limbs into a tiny glass box and squeezed her­self through un­strung ten­nis rack­ets over the world, in­clud­ing the Glas­ton­bury and Ed­in­burgh Fringe fes­ti­vals.

“My body’s not so crash hot on the back bends,” she grins. “I’m what’s called a front ben­der. Some of it comes nat­u­rally, some of it you have to work at.”

Skye holds three Guin­ness World Records for her ef­forts. One is for the fastest time get­ting into a con­tor­tion box, cram­ming her 1.7m-tall body into a 52x45x45cm box in just 4.78 sec­onds.

She also holds the records for the long­est time spent in a con­tor­tion box – six min­utes and 13 sec­onds – pressed in with her friends, ac­ro­bat twin sis­ters Nele and Jola Siezen, and for squeez­ing through a ten­nis racket in a va­ri­ety of ways over three min­utes.

“For a fe­male get­ting through the ten­nis racket is about the hips be­cause hips are a very fixed struc­ture on your body!” she ex­plains. “For men, it’s the shoul­ders or chest that can be a prob­lem, but they are a bit more mo­bile. You can ex­pel air from your chest.

“I go through in the splits or maybe bum first, or with my leg up ver­ti­cally by my head – there are a few dif­fer­ent ways you can squeeze through.”

Skye cur­rently tu­tors at Cir­cot­ica, a Christchurch-based cir­cus school that caters to all ages and all abil­i­ties. More provoca­tively, the mum-of-one has also per­formed in risqué bur­lesque shows and fetish balls, and ap­peared as Kinky the In­ap­pro­pri­ate Clown in adults-only gigs she says are “very cheeky with some nu­dity”.

Yet, while Skye’s life may be the envy of many, she has also had some tough times – not least the de­por­ta­tion of her for­mer part­ner Andy just weeks af­ter their son Taiga was born.

Builder Andy had come to NZ from Ja­maica just af­ter the 2011 Christchurch earth­quake. The cou­ple were liv­ing in Welling­ton when Andy’s visa ex­pired. “There were is­sues about the re­newal not go­ing through on time,” she ex­plains. “Two days be­fore Taiga was born, he was locked up and told he was be­ing de­ported.”

Andy was al­lowed to at­tend his son’s birth, but three weeks later was slapped with a fiveyear ban and forced to fly back to Ja­maica. At the time, a friend set up a Givealit­tle page to help the fam­ily with around $20,000 worth of de­por­ta­tion and lawyer’s fees, de­scrib­ing the tear­ing apart of “a fam­ily that pays its own way in life” as a so­cial in­jus­tice.

“Taiga and I did go over for a while, but it’s tough there,” says Skye. “The daily wages are about the equiv­a­lent of $20, so it was an uphill bat­tle. I had to come home.”

Now she’s fo­cused on giv­ing Taiga the best child­hood pos­si­ble, sup­ported by her cir­cus fam­ily. “He comes with me ev­ery­where,” she tells. “He’s kind of like the as­sis­tant tu­tor in the classes. When I’m do­ing a show, the acts are usu­ally less than 10 min­utes long, so there’s al­ways some kind soul around who will look af­ter him. And he al­ways comes on stage for the cur­tain call af­ter­wards.

“I feel ex­tremely lucky that I have a job that I love that ul­ti­mately puts a smile on peo­ple’s faces. Try­ing to jug­gle a small hu­man as well means it’s a lit­tle more hand-to-mouth these days, but it’s like any­thing – if you work hard and put the ef­fort in, then you can sur­vive.”

Rais­ing Taiga solo has been tough – luck­ily, Skye’s cir­cus fam­ily is on hand to help when she’s in a tight spot! In Ja­maica with her baby’s daddy Andy.

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