When anyone mentions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, a vision of their iconic performance of Ravel’s Boléro at the 1984 Winter Olympics inevitably springs to mind. The best-loved British ice-dancers of all time made history when they received 12 perfect six scores for their memorable routine.
Their stunning performance at the Sarajevo Winter Olympics made them the highest-scoring figure skaters in history – receiving 12 perfect sixes and six 5.9s from the judges. All of the judges awarded them an unprecedented score of six for artistic impression.
Torvill and Dean are undoubtedly Great Britain’s most successful skaters of all time. They were World and European champions for four successive years, from 1981 to 1984. After their monumental Olympic victory in 1984, they turned professional – going on to win the world professional championships five times, between 1984 and 1996.
Following a rule change, despite their professional career, they were allowed to enter the Winter Olympics at Lillehammer in Norway in 1994. Unfortunately, their Olympic swansong – when they were in line to win another gold medal – was marred due to a technicality. A controversial judges’ ruling deemed some of their moves illegal and they received the bronze medal instead.
Both born in Nottingham, Torvill and Dean were originally coached by Betty Callaway and then by Janet Sawbridge. Dean began skating at the age of 10 in 1968. Torvill first skated in 1965, when she was eight. They skated with different partners in their youth in the 1970s.
Both were very successful as young skaters: Torvill won the British Junior Pairs championship with her then skating partner, Michael Hutchenson, in 1972, while Dean won the Ice Dance Primary GB Championship the same year with his then partner, Sandra Elson.
However, neither of them were full-time skaters in early adulthood. Dean was a police officer and Torvill an insurance clerk, before they took up skating full-time. Coach Janet Sawbridge first tried Torvill and Dean out together in 1975.
It was a highly successful move, as by 1976, they had won their first trophy (the Northern Championship) and they were fifth in their first Olympic Games at Lake Placid in 1980.
In the build-up to the skating legends’ famous Olympic routine in 1984, actor and singer Michael Crawford was instrumental in perfecting the moves. Becoming their mentor, he later described his role as teaching them how to act, building on their existing skating skills.
Crawford was watching at the rink when Torvill and Dean swept to victory in front of 8,500 spectators at the Zetra Olympic Ice Hall. Back home in the UK, an additional 24 million viewers were watching them skate into the record books on TV.
Turning professional after the Olympics, the duo starred in a successful ice dancing world tour called Face the Music. Dean became a choreographer for the English National Ballet, devising routines to the songs of Paul Simon. The duo toured with Stars on Ice in 1996 and 1997.
They produced Ice Adventures at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1998, including a daring aerial ice ballet. They also choreographed for Anissina and Peizerat, the famous French ice dance team, who went on to win the 2000 World Championships.
Dancing on Ice
After officially retiring from professional skating in 1998, Torvill and Dean came out of retirement in 2006 to take up the role of creative directors on the ITV show, Dancing on Ice.
The reality show pairs up a professional ice-skater with a celebrity and they compete against each other in intricate ice dance routines, with one couple being eliminated each week.
Torvill and Dean were persuaded to perform their famous Boléro routine on the show, which ran continually until 2014. It was revived in 2018 for a tenth series when singer Jake Quickenden and his skating partner Vanessa Bauer triumphed in the grand final and Torvill and Dean were on the judging panel.
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