With Mark Hanretty getting into skating after seeing Torvill and Dean return to the Olympics in 1994, he went on to become a successful figure skater and ice dancer competing in events such as the World and European Championships. Mark now works alongside Torvill and Dean on Dancing on Ice, having been a professional skater on the show for ten series, and this year, he duetted with fellow Dancing on Ice skater Olivia Smart, with the routine being choreographed by Christopher Dean. In the latest series of Dancing on Ice, Mark’s celebrity partner was stage and screen actor Carley Stenson, with whom he reached the week before the Semi-Finals, and during his time on the show so far, he’s most recently reached the Final in 2020 and 2022 with Paralympian Libby Clegg and singer and actor Kimberly Wyatt respectively. Alongside his wife, Mark holds Hanretty Skate Camps, which has been running for approximately 13 years, and as well as being a commentator for competitions including the World Championships, Mark also filmed for the BBC Three documentary series Freeze. We caught up with Mark about being a professional skater on Dancing on Ice, being partnered with Carley Stenson on this year’s series and running Hanretty Skate Camps.
Earlier this year, you competed in your tenth series on Dancing on Ice, how does it feel returning to the show each year and what do you enjoy most about being part of the professional line-up?
I adore the show. I love being part of it and it feels like family. So many of the production, hair, makeup and wardrobe team are friends of mine that I’ve known for so many years, and we are all united with our shared goal of trying to make great TV and we help and support each other. I think being a part of what feels like a family is one of the absolute highlights.
How was it skating with Carley Stenson in this year’s series and did you have a favourite routine to perform together?
Carley was an absolute delight. She was so respectful, so appreciative, so grateful and just an awesome human being. I was really, really lucky to be partnered with her. Unfortunately, it ended sooner than I’d hoped. I was really hoping that we could make it to the Final, but injury did not help us.
My favourite routine to perform would have been the one that we went out on, with the prop. I thought it was going to be really cool, but we just didn’t get enough time together on it. So, probably the first one that we did.
How did you find the experience reaching the Final in 2020 with Libby Clegg and 2022 with Kimberly Wyatt?
Skating with Libby was mind-blowing because skating with somebody who’s blind just opens my appreciation up for disability and what people can achieve and accomplish. It’s almost like a secret power which Libby used to be even more incredible as a human. Being partnered with her was amazing. I’ve been quite vocal about the fact that when I first found out I was partnered with her, I wasn’t happy because I thought it would be dangerous, and yet, in hindsight, it’s been one of the best experiences.
As for Kimberly, she was just an incredible dancer. I joked when I was on the show that, whoever I’m partnered with, normally I’m the more flexible and better dancer. On this occasion, neither of those were appropriate! It was really nice for me to be pushed by somebody, as I was by Kimberly, in terms of flexibility and choreographically, to be able to really push both of us.
What is it like meeting your celebrity partners for the first time and seeing their skating progress over the weeks?
Meeting the celebs is exciting because by that point we know a lot about them because we get a heads up before they know who they’re with. It’s really exciting but also so challenging to make somebody ready to compete and perform on skates in such a short space of time. It’s exhilarating, nerve-racking, and full of pressure, but I love it.
Is there anything you find most challenging about working on the series and how do you find the experience being part of a live TV show?
It’s definitely a challenge if you’ve got a celebrity who is really struggling. One of the challenges that happens every year is the emotional toll it takes on somebody that is put through this experience because so much is expected and demanded of them and it’s exhausting emotionally. It’s exhilarating, amazing, joyful, and everybody that does it adores it, but it’s also a really intense few weeks, that normally, and almost always, culminates in a bit of a burnout and we have to provide the support they need to get them back on track in a very short space of time to compete the next weekend.
What would you say are some of your favourite highlights from your time as a professional skater on Dancing on Ice so far?
There are so many highlights but, for me, the friendships that I’ve made are one of my biggest highlights. Also, getting to work with Torvill and Dean – that’s undoubtedly amazing, getting to do silks (I did a silks number where we flew from the sky and that was so cool!), and getting to do the duet this year with Olivia Smart, who is fresh off the Olympics, and having it choreographed by the legend that is Christopher Dean is going to stand out as incredible.
Can you tell us about Hanretty Skate Camps and how did it come about?
Hanretty Skate Camps was my wife’s idea. She’s done skate camps before, abroad in Europe, for many, many years, and she suggested that we try it and it’s now, I think, 13 years in and is just as successful as ever. We take 30 people on the ice and we give them two really happy, glorious days of skating with different focuses. Sometimes it’s single skating, sometimes I stand in, and sometimes it’s another person like Christopher Dean or one of the other pros from Dancing on Ice. We run about six or seven a year.
What is Hanretty Skate Camps like to run and why would you recommend signing up?
Hanretty Skate Camps are more for people that have already got quite a proficiency of skating. We’re hoping to try to create Hanretty Skate Camps for complete beginners as well. We all have such a gorgeous time, it’s just so joyful.
Do you have a favourite aspect of coaching and how is it being part of your skaters’ journeys in the sport?
I love choreographing, that’s one of the things that I enjoy a lot. I also really enjoy coaching and making skaters competitively ready. I’m quite competitive myself, and I love to see my skaters winning, but because I’m so busy now with Dancing on Ice and commentary, I’m not around very often to be able to make skaters competition ready because they need year-round tuition. I just tend to help other coaches and help skaters and deal up choreography.
How was it filming for last year’s BBC Three documentary series Freeze?
Working on the BBC Three documentary Freeze was so much fun. I really loved the team, they were really cool people to work with. Because I’d experienced working in TV, it was just fun to be able to take them into my world. I thought they did a brilliant job.
What is it like commentating at major competitions such as the World Figure Skating Championships?
Commentating at the likes of the World Championships is incredible, especially being onsite. I was lucky enough to go to Japan this year, and last year I did the internationals on the junior circuit, so I was in lots of different countries and it’s cool to have different cultural experiences and it’s great to see the skating live. It requires huge hours of prep, but I think the skaters deserve it and that’s why I put so much time into representing them as well as I can with their backstories when they perform.
You began your sports career as a figure skater and then switched to ice dancing, do you have any stand-out memories from your competitive sports career and is there anything you miss most about skating competitively?
I wish I had done more competitively. I did the World Championships and European Championships, but I feel like I had more to give. It’s a very expensive sport and I couldn’t afford to compete or train at the level that was required to contend for medals at the World Championships so it was a little bit bittersweet. I did love jumping. I loved triple jumps and I wish I could still do them but I’d be too scared in case I injure myself and then can’t work and provide for my children, so triple jumps are a thing of the past for me.
How did you get into skating and was it something you always wanted to do professionally?
I got into skating when Torvill and Dean returned to compete in the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer in Norway. I was so inspired and, even before I’d skated, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Did you have any favourite ice skaters to watch when growing up and what advice would you give a new skater starting out?
I loved watching Michelle Kwan and Lu Chen… loved watching Torvill and Dean – they were the real skaters I always loved to watch, that was my greatest joy to watch them. Now I really like Papadakis and Cizeron. Also, the World Championships this year was amazing with so many good skaters like Kévin Aymoz, Jason Brown and Keegan Messing.
Can you tell us about your process of choreographing a routine?
I need to be really familiar with the music, beat, tempo and phrase changes in the music, and then need to create a storyline so the skater can try and tap into their emotions to better represent the piece that’s emotionally appropriate to the music. It’s also about knowing the skater so that you can give choreography that not only is appropriate for what the judges want and appropriate for the music, but is also something that will challenge the skater but not overwhelm them. I’ve done so much of it now that… well, I can’t say I’m great at it… but just by having done so much, I’m very used to trying to do it!
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
Being husband and daddy. I don’t do as much of it as I would like because I try and provide a good life for them, but being Daddy’s the best.
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