Former U.S. competitor finds groove as show skater on cruise ships
Posted by Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork
After medaling nationally at the novice, junior and senior levels, assembling an impressive international resume, competing at the world championships and being an Olympic alternate, Brandon Mroz decided to step away from competitive skating. He soon found his niche aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships, skating in the ice shows produced by Willy Bietak Productions. He’s just started his fourth contract, a six-month gig on the newest ship, Harmony of the Seas. Icenetwork caught up with Mroz and asked him how show skating agrees with him.
Icenetwork: What interesting sights have you seen during your contracts?
Brandon Mroz: I have seen some incredible places from my job, places I would probably not have seen otherwise. One of my favorite places I have been to was when we docked in Jordan and I got to go to the “Rose City,” Petra. Seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World is astounding. (Note: Petra was named one of the New7Wonders of the World in 2007.)
Icenetwork: How did you decide it was time to step away from competitive skating?
Mroz: Stepping away from competitive skating was a difficult decision for me. I still miss the competitive side of the sport — the blood, sweat and tears that go into training for a very specific moment when you compete. But every sportsman has to tip their hat, so to speak, when it is time for the next chapter. After the 2014 Olympic trials, it was my time to step away.
Icenetwork: How did you choose the cruise ships as your first big professional job?
Mroz: Skating for Willy Bietak on ships was my first choice. I thought the shows were challenging and the contract length was fitting to my life. Plus, being in a new place every day is stimulating and keeps it fresh.
Icenetwork: You worked with some extraordinary choreographers during your competitive career, like Lori Nichol and Jeffrey Buttle. Who were the choreographers of the ship shows you’ve done so far and how are you embracing this new aspect of your skating?
Mroz: I worked with some brilliant creative minds while I was competing, as I have on ships. The main choreographers for the shows on board are Sarah Kawahara and Chris Nolan.
Doing professional shows, I can honestly say, has made me a new skater. When I was competing, and especially with [IJS], it is a game of numbers, and you can lose sight of why you started to skate in the first place. As a competitor, I feel like I was always considered to be a jumper more than a performer. Now on ships, I skate with new purpose. I skate for the performance, the crowd, and my tricks are a secondary result. In other words, if I ever do compete again — look out.
Icenetwork: As a singles skater, how do you now enjoy the ensemble aspect of the show?
Mroz: Getting to skate with my ice cast brings a great atmosphere to my skating and to the show. I first started skating in ice hockey, and that was one of the things I enjoyed about the sport: having a team. So, getting to do the group numbers is a brilliant switch-up.
Icenetwork: What are the biggest challenges of skating on a cruise ship?
Mroz: Going from NHL or Olympic size to ship ice is a big change — adapting jump patterns, changing entries or maybe jumping on a curve when you would skate straight on into a jump back home. Another might be that you are performing on a moving cruise ship, and at times it can be rocky. But like any challenge, I tend to adapt to surroundings, and I have all the years of training and muscle memory instilled in me. Plus, it can be a little thrilling to have challenges. That’s the athlete in me.
Icenetwork: What is the best part?
Mroz: Doing what I love, having your ice cast as your family and traveling the world.
Icenetwork: How does the show and the audience appreciation remind you of how much you love skating?
Mroz: I’ve always skated to hear the roar of the crowd. As an athlete and as a performer, that is fuel for me. So doing a great ice show and delivering that to the audience is phenomenal. Doing shows has brought out a performer in me, something that the perfectionism of competing didn’t. In shows, you can really let go and be the skater you want to be. Performing has refueled my love for skating.
Icenetwork: Is there anything else you would like to share with icenetwork readers?
Mroz: Set your goals in your competitive career, work hard and push yourself that extra bit. Then, when it is said and done, every skater should experience what I have — a new chapter with your sport.