By Rick Bowers
For Angelina Bruno, dancing is more than a hobby. Much more. It’s her emotional therapy, her physical therapy, and her profession. “It’s my greatest love story,” she says.
Recently, Angelina got a gig as a featured dancer in the international game Just Dance 2021, and in her performance to the song “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd, she wears a pointed yellow prosthetic arm cover that lights up.
“I’m the first dancer to appear in the game with a prosthesis,” she says. “It’s an honor for me, because it proves that mentalities are changing, and that disability is included more. I’m happy about the positive impact it will have.”
Angelina has also choreographed and performed dances in videos for the songs of high-level artists such as Beyoncé. In addition, she’s toured with rapper Black M, who was part of the well-known French rap and hip-hop group Sexion d’Assaut.
For a professional dancer, Angelina’s intense involvement in dance began later in life than is typical. It all started with a tragedy.
Angelina lost her right forearm at age 17 as a result of a car accident that also left her with a fractured pelvis, a concussion, pulmonary congestion, and severe pain. She spent three months in the hospital and endured several operations. Even a year after her release, she was constantly tired, suffered migraines, and had drops in her blood pressure and other problems. A doctor advised her to take up a sport to help her recover.
“I decided to take my first dance class at 18,” Angelina says. “Dance—and more specifically hip-hop—allowed me to express the emotions that I felt so strongly, such as my anger at becoming disabled. It allowed me to express in movement something that speech limited. When I danced, I forgot my difference for a moment.”
Though her limb difference and other lingering health problems made dancing difficult, she persisted.
“I had a big problem with my memory and my balance, and I had to learn two-arm choreography when I only had one arm,” she says. “But my love and passion for dance was strong, and the world of hip-hop opened its arms to me.”
Gradually, Angelina began training with dancers in Belgium, France, Italy, Los Angeles, and other places.
“One day, I decided that I was ready to teach dancing,” she says. “When I woke up every morning with only one desire—the desire to dance—it was obvious that I should make dancing my career.”
While getting jobs as a dancer and choreographer with only one hand is more of a challenge than it would be for other dancers, Angelina says her disability teaches her perseverance and patience. No matter the obstacle, she never gives up.
Because she believes that dance saved her after her accident and limb loss, Angelina also decided to study dance therapy.
“I am now a dance therapist, which means that I strive to heal people’s ailments through dance and movement, as well as by helping them love themselves as they are,” she says.
So how did a dancer with only one arm who started so late reach such a high level in such a physical and visual profession? How did she get the opportunity to perform on television, give a TEDx Talk in Paris, and perform alongside popular rappers Dadju, Fianso, and Kalash Criminel?
“In life, there is no secret,” she says. “If we are hungry, we succeed. After what happened to me, I was hungry for recognition. If you want to succeed, dare to be yourself, accept criticism, continue, fight, be proud of who you are, and, most importantly, be grateful to be alive.”