Torvill and Dean (Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean) are English ice dancers and former British, European, Olympic, and World champions. At the Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics the pair won gold and became the highest-scoring figure skaters of all time for a single programme, receiving twelve perfect 6.0s and six 5.9s which included artistic impression scores of 6.0 from every judge, after skating to Maurice Ravel‘s Boléro. One of the most-watched television events ever in the United Kingdom, their 1984 Olympics performance was watched by a British television audience of more than 24 million people.
The pair turned professional following the 1984 World Championships, regaining amateur status briefly ten years later in 1994 to compete in the Olympics once again. The pair retired from competitive skating for good in 1998 when they toured one last time with their own show, Ice Adventures, before rejoining Stars on Ice for one more season. Their final routine was performed to Paul Simon‘s “Still Crazy After All These Years”, a routine they had devised a few years earlier for competition. Although remaining close friends, the pair did not skate together again until they were enticed out of retirement to take part in ITV’s Dancing on Ice. Their career was portrayed in the 2018 biographical film Torvill & Dean.
Both are from Nottingham, England, where the local National Ice Centre is accessed through a public area known as Bolero Square, in honour of the pair’s Olympic achievements. There is also a housing estate in the Wollaton area of the city with a street named ‘Torvill Drive’ and another named ‘Dean Close’ which is located just off Torvill Drive, with many of the surrounding roads named after coaches and dances associated with the pair. In a UK poll conducted by Channel 4 in 2002, the British public voted Torvill and Dean’s winning performance at the 1984 Winter Olympics as Number 8 in the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.
Partnership and the Olympics
Around 1975, Jayne Torvill was a British Junior Pairs champion, and Christopher Dean and his partner had won a British Junior Ice Dance competition. Nottingham coach Janet Sawbridge put them together, and shortly afterwards, they started their ice dancing history. They took their first trophy in 1976. They changed coaches to Betty Callaway in 1979. After a 5th-place finish at their first Olympic Games, in Lake Placid in the 1980 Winter Olympics, and 4th place in the Worlds that year, they never took lower than first place in any competition they entered except the 1994 Winter Olympics.
Singer-actor Michael Crawford was the fourth member of the team, along with their trainer. He became a mentor to them around 1981, and went on to help them create their 1983 and 1984 Olympic routines, and “taught them how to act”. Crawford said of them, “I found them to be delightful young people, the kind you want to help if you can.” (The Times November 1982). He was present with their trainer at the ringside, when the team won their perfect Olympics score with their Boléro routine.
Although Torvill and Dean had been able to leave their jobs as an insurance book clerk and policeman, respectively—thanks to grants from the City of Nottingham—they were not allowed to earn any money from skating as long as they wished to remain eligible for the Olympics. Turning professional in 1984, they took advantage not only of the financial but of the artistic possibilities of their new status. They worked with Australian dance choreographer Graeme Murphy at first, and they were able to create not only routines for themselves but entire ice shows with a thematic coherence, which toured Australia, the U.S., and Europe. Their projects included a filmed fairy tale “Fire and Ice.” In general, Dean would imagine the sequence he wanted to perform, and Torvill would work with him to refine it technically. They choreographed, as a team, for other ice dancers and skaters, particularly the Canadian brother–sister team Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay, who skated for France at the Albertville 1992 Winter Olympics, taking the silver medal with their West Side Story routine.
Return to the Olympics
After ten years as professionals, Torvill and Dean decided to return to the amateur arena for the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway (along with other great skaters of the 1980s, such as Brian Boitano and Katarina Witt, following a change in eligibility rules). The couple moved to Hamar, Norway, in 1993 to practise at the Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre which hosted the figure skating events. Their free dance was designed to re-establish some of the ideas about ice dance which they themselves had been instrumental in dismantling; “Let’s Face The Music and Dance” had no swooning lovers, theatrical accessories, or strong ideological message; instead, the emphasis was upon pure, light-hearted dance in the Astaire and Rogers tradition. The routine did have one move, an assisted lift, which pushed the envelope of the rules, though they had danced the routine at the European Championships with no indication from the judges of any problems. According to their joint autobiography, Facing the Music, the lift was technically legal because the rule prohibited lifts “above the shoulders,” and the lift they used was not above the shoulders. The judges placed Torvill and Dean third, giving the second to perennial silver medalists Usova and Zhulin, and the gold medal to Grishuk and Platov, who continued to win gold through the next four years.
Life after the Olympics
After the disappointing finish at Lillehammer, Torvill and Dean “retired from competitive skating” on 2 March 1994. Instead, they continued with their planned and very successful “Face the Music” tour, to be followed by numerous other projects: Dean choreographed a suite of dances to the songs of Paul Simon for the English National Ballet, professional competitions, touring with Stars on Ice, and collaborating with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and director Patricia Rozema on the video Inspired by Bach: Six Gestures. In late 1998, they produced an ice show at Wembley Stadium in London, “Ice Adventures,” which included a “flying” ice ballet and other wonders. In the meantime, they were still choreographing, notably for the dynamic French Ice Dance team, Anissina and Peizerat, who won first place in the World Championships in 2000.
In 1998, the pair officially retired, each continuing to coach and choreograph separately. Since 2006, they have acted as coaches, choreographers and performers in ITV‘s Dancing on Ice and its Australian version Torvill and Dean’s Dancing on Ice. The ITV show returned for a fifth series in January 2010. After the 2007 and 2008 UK series of Dancing on Ice, Torvill and Dean took the show on the road for a British tour; a similar tour, the “25th Anniversary” (of their Sarajevo Olympic success) took place in 2009.
In 2014, Torvill and Dean returned to Sarajevo to dance the Bolero one more time, celebrating the 30-year anniversary of their Olympics performance. Invited by the mayor of Sarajevo ahead of the Youth Olympic Games in 2017, the event helped raise funds for a permanent ice rink and reminded the world of their efforts to bring back the Olympics to Sarajevo. 2015 saw Torvill and Dean make their pantomime début at the Manchester Opera House, performing in “Cinderella”.
Style and approach
Use of narrative and thematic music
After winning the 1981 World Figure Skating Championships (which brought the distinction of MBEs), and with three more years before the Olympics, they began to plan routines which used a single piece of music and had some narrative or thematic element. At that time, Ice Dance “long” routines typically used several pieces of music, often with different rhythms to show off the command of different steps (thus their Free Dance in 1981 used “Fame“, “Caravan“, “Red Sails in the Sunset“, and “Sing, Sing, Sing“); the Original Set Pattern dance used only one piece of music, but the entire routine had to be performed three times in sequence, exactly the same way. In 1982, they presented a long programme to the overture from the musical Mack and Mabel, which evoked the emotions of a sweet but stormy romance; at the World Championships in 1983, they enacted a visit to the circus with music from Barnum, a performance which brought them the honour of receiving the world’s first perfect score, with help from the stage show’s star, Michael Crawford; in 1984, at the Olympics, they stunned the world with Boléro, and also with their dramatic Paso Doble (Capriccio Espagnol) short routine, in which Torvill was the bullfighter’s cape. They had learned to choose and edit music carefully and design routines that were appealing both technically and imaginatively, and their completeness of presentation included thematically appropriate costumes.
In 1989, during the duo’s visit to Australia, they recorded an album Here We Stand, produced by Kevin Stanton with arrangements by Warwick Bone and Derek Williams, and recorded while Christopher Dean was laid up in Sydney, recuperating from a torn ligament. Sales of the album were poor, and this may have been due to the fact that the album featured the dancers singing the material ghosted by backing vocalists, instead of the music they danced to, however it survives on iTunes.
Complying with Olympic rules
Torvill and Dean’s 1984 Olympic free dance was skated to Maurice Ravel‘s Boléro. Ravel’s original Boléro composition is over 17 minutes long. Olympics rules state that the free dance must be four minutes long (plus or minus ten seconds). Torvill and Dean went to a music arranger to condense Boléro down to a “skateable” version. However, they were told that the minimum time that Boléro could be condensed down to was 4 minutes 28 seconds, 18 seconds in excess of the Olympics rules. Torvill and Dean reviewed the Olympic rule book and found that it stated that actual timing of a skating routine began when the skaters started skating. Therefore, they could use Boléro if they did not place their skates’ blades to ice for the first 18 seconds. They timed the performance so that when Torvill first placed a blade on the ice, they would have the maximum skating time remaining.
See Ice Dancers Torvill & Dean Now, 38 Years After They Won Gold
The English skating team still speak to each other every day.
February 6, 2022
There are five different figure skating events in the Winter Olympics: men’s, women’s, pairs, team, and ice dancing. And they each have their stars and legends. In the world of ice dancing, few pairs are more well-respected than Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. Kicking off their professional skating partnership in the mid ’70s, the ice dancers scored a gold medal for Great Britain at the Sarajevo in 1984, stunning judges and fans with their “Boléro” free skate and earning perfect 6.0s across the board. Torvill and Dean also won multiple gold medals at World and European skating championships, made an Olympic return after they retired from amateur competition, and even embarked on their own tour.
It’s been decades since Torvill and Dean competed professionally, but they’re still very much in the public eye. Here’s what they’re doing now, nearly 40 years after winning that gold medal.
They initially retired soon after winning Olympic gold.
Torvill and Dean went pro, meaning that they took themselves out of amateur competition, right after the 1984 World Championships. This enabled them to earn money from performing, which they did in international touring shows and in the 1986 TV special, Fire and Ice.
However, they decided to make an Olympic comeback for the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway. The pair placed third but were so disappointed by the judging that they made the recall to retire from competition again—this time for good.
“We couldn’t skate any better than we skated,” Dean said in a statement at the time, via The New York Times. “It was one of those memorable performances. We were disillusioned a little bit about how it happened but we were elated by the reaction. The audience were our judges.”
They continued to tour and perform together regularly until 1998. And in 2014, they were invited to Sarajevo to do their “Boléro” one more time—in honor of the 30th anniversary of their Olympic success.
They reunited for the reality competition show Dancing on Ice.
After retiring, both skaters stayed involved in the sport through coaching, choreography, and other ventures. Then another opportunity presented itself.
Since 2006, Torvill and Dean have been involved with Dancing on Ice, in which celebrities are paired with professional skaters and compete each week, similar to Dancing With the Stars. Originally, they were mentors and creative directors; since the series was revived in 2018 after a brief hiatus, they’ve been the competition’s head judges. They’ve also performed at live Dancing on Ice touring shows.
“We’ve tried to give up. In 1998, we decided to retire quietly—and then we got this phone call out of the blue eight years later asking about Dancing on Ice and would we be able to teach celebrities to skate,” Torvill recalled to The Daily Record in 2018. “That opened a whole new decade of us getting back on the ice and performing again and touring.”
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They inspired a movie about their career.
In 2018, a British TV movie starring Will Tudor as Dean and Poppy Lee Friar as Torvill premiered. Torvill & Dean, which documents the iconic ice dancing team’s early career, was made with the blessing of both skaters.
“When this drama about us was suggested, we sat down together and talked to Billy Ivory, who wrote the screenplay,” Dean told Radio Times. “He’s got such a feel for events and how everything came together. I’ll definitely be watching it this Christmas. At the time you just think, ‘Done that, let go’, but when you sit down and think about it now, it’s really emotional looking back to the glory days.”