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Illuminating the ice : Mauro Bruni a passionate skater and artist

Par Rédigé le 21/11/2020 (dernière modification le 22/11/2020)

Creator of 2 international contemporary figures skating company and at nearly 15 years of career as a professional skater, we talk today with Mauro Bruni, who participate this summer at the french figure skating ice show "Rouge". Meeting with a brilliant and passionate artist who is on the path, to revolution the ice show world.

Mauro Bruni, figure skater, performer, artist.. (c) Mauro Bruni.
Mauro Bruni, figure skater, performer, artist.. (c) Mauro Bruni.
Kehinde Wiley said : “Art is about changing what we see in our everyday lives and representing it in such a way that it gives us hope.”

The world is upside down and yet, we can observe all around the world via social network Instagram videos and others passionate artist who are missing more than a job, what they love the most: performing, sharing happiness, vision of the world, hope and dream thru their art. That's what was the topic this summer of the exceptional french figure skating Ice Show named « Rouge ». One of the only event around the world that took place the 7th of August and the 5th of September in Auxerre – Monéteau France. Created by the 8 times Italian figures skating champion and Olympian Alexandre Riccitelli and Thierry Voegeli. This ice show reunited performers from all over the world who performed in different ice shows productions in their career. The point of the ice show was to tell a story. The story of the world we are currently facing. Of those ice skaters who were able to skate for the first time since the lockdown and the pandemic stop their profession. One of them, was Mauro Bruni. He stepped on the ice and was able to share a message, emotions and passion that is missing since so many months.

He Recently graduated from the Imperial College of London of Masters of Business Administration and skated about everywhere. And with some of the biggest ice shows companies around the world. After being an international figure skating competitor between 1995 and 2005, training with the famous US figure skating coach Frank Carrol in Los Angeles, Mauro Bruni quickly found his reconversion into an ice show skater. On the highlight of his impressive career, he performed as a principal performer for many international company such as Holiday on Ice where he performed there 11 years between 2007-2018, in 5 productions: ‘’Romanza’’, ‘’Energia’’, ‘’Speed’’, ‘’Passion’’ and ‘’Time’’. He as well performed and worked as a cast Manager on various Royal Caribbean cruise ships between 2009-2015. And many more companies and events.

But Mauro didn’t stop here. Additionning his impressive performer background, Mauro directed and choreographed few shows : ‘’The Creative Spirit of John Curry’’ at the Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance 2019. ‘’A Night on Ice’’ for House of Mauro Productions 2019, ‘’Ice FM’’ at Le Zenith de Lille 2017, ‘’Rendezvous sur Glace’’ for Scobe International 2016, ‘’Skating Through the Movies’’ on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas 2015 and ‘’Let’s Dance’’ for American Ice Theatre 2014. Recently, he began a new adventure by creating his own companie an accomplishement and the result of his career. ‘’House of Mauro’’ : A contemporary figure skating performing arts company and platform created for promotion and collaboration of choreographic talent within the professional figure skating industry, founded in New York in December 2018. And, ‘’Ice Theatre of London’’ : A contemporary figure skating performing arts company, community platform, and educational establishment created for the enrichment of the arts community through promotion of creative and performance ice skating in Britain, founded in London, in January 2020.

Mauro talk to us today about his projects, his passion for figure skating and the vision he has about the ice show world and the art of skating.

"Live entertainment provides hope and dreams and inspiration for everyone, performers and audience alike"

Mauro Bruni, figure skater, performer, artist.. (c) Mauro Bruni.
Mauro Bruni, figure skater, performer, artist.. (c) Mauro Bruni.
- Hello Mauro, can you introduce yourself ?

My name is Mauro Bruni and I’m from New York, though the USA is only an address of mine nowadays. I was a National and International competitive figure skater for the United States during most of my childhood and throughout my school/university days. I graduated from the University of Southern California in 2007 with a BFA in Fine Arts, emphasising in graphic design. After graduating, I joined a European touring ice show company called Holiday on Ice and spent the next 12 years traveling the world, engrossed in the performing arts – an industry I love unequivocally.
While I was on the road, I developed a passion for choreography and directing. This led to founding a new performing arts company two years ago in New York called House of Mauro, to promote new choreographic ideas in collaboration with various artistic genres and expand the scope of art on ice. Directly after this I began a Masters of Business Administration degree at Imperial College London, where I recently graduated with distinction.
While I was studying in the UK, I began another figure skating performing arts company called the Ice Theatre of London. With the ITL, I hope to educate and inspire younger generations by bringing contemporary performance figure skating to British (and global) audiences.

- When did you realize that you want to dedicate your life to skating ? How does everything start for you ?

I first stepped on the ice when I was 4 years old – and hated it ! My parents always joke about me falling backwards, hitting my head, and crying until they took me off the ice. A year later, I tried again – but I fell on my head and cried again ! This time my parents didn’t take me off the ice, and I started to learn very quickly. I graduated from group classes soon after, and was put on a local hockey team when I was 6 years old. One day I saw some figure skaters practicing and decided I wanted to try that instead. My mom bought me a cheap pair of skates from a department store and that was it – I was hooked. I skated in my first national championships 5 years later!
I really never thought about ‘dedicating my life to skating’ at all while I was growing up. Skating was just something I did, that I loved and was good at. Sometimes I still don’t think I’ve dedicated my life to skating as there are many things I’d like to accomplish outside of this realm. However, figure skating is still something I do, that I love and am good at, and I could never imagine my life without. I choose to continue working in this industry because it excites and inspires me everyday.

- Can you talk about your transition from competition to show skating ?

I’ll be the first to admit, I was not a good competitor. I had an extremely hard time with almost-paralyzing nerves in the competition environnent. I far preferred performing and skating without the requirement of the technical elements – even though I was technically very proficient!
It was only by chance that I ended up on Holiday on Ice 4 months after graduating from university. I was offered jobs with Disney on Ice and Holiday on Ice upon graduation, but the job with Holiday on Ice would begin earlier. Since I still loved to skate and was very good at it, didn’t want to give it up, and my coach at the time (Frank Carroll) said Holiday on Ice was ‘fabulous’, I signed the contract and flew out to the Netherlands to join the company. I had never even seen a HOI show before rehearsals!
You could say I loved it - I skated in Holiday on Ice shows for 11 years after that!

- What is the biggest difference between performing in competition and shows for you ? Do the nerves ever go away ?

There are quite a few differences between competition and show skating, but the obvious one is this : In competition, you have 9 judges scrutinizing everything you do. In shows, you have thousands of audience members ENJOYING everything you do.
Ultimately, a performance is meant to be exciting for the audience. I’ve experienced some wonderful ovations – some very exciting and appreciative audiences all over the world. But you know what an audience loves just as much as a perfect performance ? When a skater takes a huge fall - one of those falls that looks like it hurts – and then gets up and keeps going with a smile. It humanizes the performance and reminds the audience that this is still a difficult activity. A lot can be forgiven in a show, that can’t be forgiven in a competition.

My struggle with nerves took an interesting path during my performing career. I would answer your second question with a no: No, nerves don’t go away, and I would never want them to. We, as humans, will always feel anxious when we care deeply (as I did/do) about something we do. If you don’t care, you won’t feel nervous. But then, your performance would no doubt look like you don’t care – and that’s not good.
The trick with nerves is to take those anxious thoughts and channel them into excitement and energy towards your performance. Now instead of being ‘nervous’, you have fire in your eyes – those are two very different feelings ! By changing my mindset in this way, the nerves I used to struggle with made me a dynamic and inspired performer.

- What do you like the most about performing ?

Of course I love traveling and visiting new cities with great friends. As performers, we are all very fortunate to do what we love as our profession. But my favorite part of all of it is something very specific :
The moment when you’re standing backstage, in the darkness. You’re warming up your body, hoping your tricks will be solid in this show. You check that your blades are clean while other skaters come off the ice, wish you luck and stop for a short ‘goodie.’ Through a sliver of opening in the curtains you catch a glimpse of a huge audience and your heart starts beating faster.  The music and lights die down - your solo is about to start - and the lights and followspots will all be on you. You check to see if your costume is perfect and take one last deep breath as the music starts again, the curtains open and muscle memory takes over. Before your mind catches up with your legs you’re practically running out into the middle of the ice, full speed ahead, energy bursting out of your toes and fingertips, with an instant heat that comes from 20,000 eyes focused directly on you. And you tell yourself, « Let’s kill it tonight !»

- You joined and performed with different company around the world and as a principal skater. Can you tell us more about those experiences ?

I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences while performing over the last 12 years. I’ve performed on tours, stationary shows, tv shows, cruise ships, in arenas, in winter markets, at Rockefeller Center in NYC, in front of the Hotel de Ville in Paris, and even in Red Square, Moscow. I’ve performed on stage at the Lido in Paris, alongside Sarah Conner in Berlin, twice on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Kimmel, and even alongside Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child in NYC!
Early on, I decided I wanted to experience many different companies in my performing career. Since we all work on a contractual basis, this is possible. That being said, there are not so many large companies to work with in our industry. I have had the pleasure of working with most of those available, as a principal skater.
Like every new experience, I learned a lot about all the companies I worked with. Not everything I learned was good, but that’s not the point. I met many different people and worked with many different choreographers, directors, skaters, crew, and others. There were ups and downs, benefits and drawbacks to every experience. None of the companies I’ve worked for were better or worse than others – they were all just slightly different. Experiencing these differences and diverse range of characters made me the well-rounded performer and professional I am today.

- What was the biggest challenge you faced while you were working as a soloist ?

I’ve discussed this topic with many peers and professionals, and I currently co-host a podcast called I’ll Cover You, that focuses on mental health awareness in the performing arts and entertainment industry. Depression was and is my biggest challenge personally and professionally. I talk about depression in the present tense because I don’t believe anyone truly recovers fully from deep depression – we just learn the tools necessary to help ourselves in the best and most efficient ways possible.

- Which choreography and solo piece did you prefer the most during your career ?

As an amateur competitor I had the wonderful priviledge to work with Patricia Curio, a former member of the New York City Ballet. She choreographed almost all of my competitive routines without ever stepping on the ice, and inspired a huge ‘aha’ moment within my performance ability. I loved working with her because she brought creative, new ideas to my skating that I was not getting from traditional skating choreographers. She really infused interest into my skating and sculpted me into a principal performer and artist.
Working with Pat prepared me for an experience that proved to be my next performance ‘aha’ moment : working with Bart Doerfler and Simone Grigorescu on Holiday on Ice’s show, Speed. Bart came to Holiday on Ice as a dance choreographer and also never stepped on the ice (with skates). He brought a wild new energy to the company, and brought out wild new performance abilities within all of the skaters involved. Alongside Simone’s brilliant choreography on the ice, Speed broke the mould of the traditional ice show and was a very special experience for all of us.
Working with Bart and Simone on my feature solo, set to Michael Buble’s Feelin’ Good, was a true collaboration. Because of my work with Pat for many years, I easily understood Bart’s direction and with Simone, translated it to the ice. The result was an absolutely fabulous number that pushed my performance and skating abilities to new heights. It’s a piece of music that follows me around these days – it’s impossible for me to hear that song without performing the number in my head! I’ll always remember Feelin’ Good.

- How do you define yourself as an artist ?

Precise but wild, regal but edgy, restrained but free, calm but explosive, courteous and efficient, cunning and ready to disrupt. Always an original.
About 15 years ago, my best friend and I chose animals to represent our artistic personas. She chose a stallion to represent me because of it’s regal posture, resting power and flowing unkempt mane, along with a ready-to-pounce energy that also makes a stallion incredibly dangerous.


"Having the opportunity to perform again, to do what I love again, to be with my tribe again, brought me back to myself"

- How did you deal with the pandemic and the quarantine situation as an artist (mentally and physically) ?

COVID-19 has hit all of us hard, equally. All businesses in the UK were shut almost overnight, and the reality of the worldwide pandemic was terrifying for a while. I caught the virus in March and was very sick for about two weeks. Luckily, I made a full recovery without hospital visits but I am also not in the ‘high risk’ age group.
When we didn’t know very much about the disease, I was really scared to leave my apartment for fear of transmitting the virus to others or catching it again. We didn’t know what we know now. Everyone stayed home for weeks on end - it was depressing.
Being unable to leave my home affected me both mentally and physically : I became rather sedentary and uninspired. I needed to move again, for my mental and physical well-being, so I started working out at home and used my skate-carrying bag as a weight to get stronger. Every so often, I would make the weight heavier by adding objects to the bag (usually bottles of wine – we all drank a lot of wine during lockdown). This creative workout strategy worked, and I did get stronger, but I didn’t feel like myself without the ice.
I hobbled along running and doing home workouts until we were finally able to travel again. I took the first opportunity to visit France, where the rinks were open, and went straight to Patinoire Cyberglace in Moneteau. Being back on the ice after 4 ½ months off brought me out of the lockdown funk – it was my longest time spent away from the ice since I was 5 years old. And there, two weeks after getting back on the ice, I was a part of the show Rouge by Alexandre Riccitelli.
Having the opportunity to perform again, to do what I love again, to be with my tribe again, brought me back to myself – even if my ability on the ice had become somewhat rusty by then. Alex’s show incorporated contemporary themes, masterful skating technique, and inspired creativity – all of which I love and revere. It was an honor to be invited and included and to be honest, it made the prior few months worth the wait. Rouge completely affected my attitude, my lockdown depression, and my ambitions for the future : we WILL need the performing arts desperately after the COVID-19 pandemic. Live entertainment provides hope and dreams and inspiration for everyone, performers and audience alike. If we felt like the performing arts were diminishing before, lockdown has definitely changed this.
Something lockdown didn’t change is the fact that the Ice Theatre of London needed to continually engage with the UK community, so my team decided to use this down time to focus on growing our audience. I was also still remotely studying and attending lectures, seminars, and international business conferences for my MBA throughout – no matter where I was in the world, lockdown and travel restrictions didn’t change that !

- Can you talk about Ice Theatre of London ? When and how did you decide to create this company ?

In New York, my hometown, performance ice skating is celebrated. When I moved to London to study at Imperial College last year, I was really looking forward to getting involved with a creative, professional figure skating community in town. I figured London is very similar to New York : the UK has a vibrant skating community and London is a world hub for the performing arts, so there must be groups like this. If the TV show Dancing on Ice is so popular, there must be more opportunities for performance. I was surprised to find nothing available.
In October 2019, the Ice Theatre of London idea was born out of this deficiency, and I brought on 4 UK-based colleagues to grow this venture together. Yebin Mok and I, along with Maja Luther, Arthur Ebel and Philipp Tischendorf became the founding members of the Ice Theatre of London.

- What is your goal and the message you want to share thru this company ?

With the Ice Theatre of London, firstly, we want to generate a platform for the UK creative skating community to connect and collaborate. We want to offer an inclusive, open space for all skaters, young and old, amateur and professional, to share ideas, get inspired, and skate together without the rules of competition. We also plan to produce contemporary figure skating shows, facilitating collaboration across arts genres and elevating figure skating performance in the UK.
We have had an amazing amount of engagement so far and hope to move forward in a big way once we are physically able to.

- Do you think it is possible to develop the popularity of show figure skating and contemporary skating around the world ? If yes how ?

I think professional figure skating shows will always be popular in some form. As long as figure skating is entertaining for audiences, there will be interest. And to keep skating interesting, we must adapt to changing times and tastes. This is where ‘contemporary skating’ comes in.
The term ‘contemporary skating’ is thrown around a lot nowadays, with many individuals claiming that their version of skating is more ‘contemporary’ than another’s, or fits the mould of what ‘contemporary skating’ should look like. But that argument is inherently flawed, because everything created now is new – there is no mould. And so what really IS contemporary skating ? I’ll refer to the dictionary :
Contemporary (adj.) : 1. Living or occurring at the same time. 2. Belonging to or occuring in the present.
Ice Skate (verb) : to skate on ice as a sport or pastime
And so if we wanted to define ‘contemporary ice skating’, conditional reasoning would tell us that it is : any skating on ice as a sport or pastime that occurs in the present. With this in mind, any kind of skating that occurs in the present or years to come can be termed ‘contemporary’. But does this mean that all contemporary ice skating will be popular or noteworthy? No. That has always been based on personal preference.
Some audiences enjoy jumping, and some enjoy spinning. Some enjoy when performers actually lay or roll on the ice. Personally I enjoy any type of ice skating that uses our tools (ice, blades, skating boots) to the fullest extent, coupled with mastery of our craft. Maybe I have high standards ?
I also enjoy a performance. For me, contemporary ice skating should be exciting and entertaining and emotional and beautiful to watch – just like a dance performance or musical. If we can infuse today’s figure skating performances with these ideas, this is how I believe our art form will remain popular.

- Despite skating, do you have time for other activities ?

Well this past year I definitely made time to complete a masters degree, which I undertook full-time. I also enjoy being active. I love seeing shows and new art installations, and anything I can draw inspiration from. I look forward to the time post-pandemic, when the performing arts are given the go-ahead in England. When I’m in New York, I spend a lot of time with my niece – she’s almost 4 and I’ve already taught her the basics of ice skating.

- What is the upcoming project you currently working on ?

I am constantly working on new projects for the Ice Theatre of London. My thoughts and plans are invested in a live virtual variety show that we would like to host sometime in December. Stay tuned!

Sarah B.
Sarah | Pro Figure Skater & Performer On Royal Carribean Cruise | Fashion & Lifestyle Journalist... En savoir plus sur cet auteur