Ice Network

Torvill, Dean return to Sarajevo to perform 'Bolero'

Legendary British Olympic champs close out 'Dancing on Ice' with live tour
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Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are still defined by their "Bolero" performance today. -Getty Images

When Dancing on Ice debuted in 2006, 1984 Olympic ice dance gold medalists Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean didn't quite understand what it meant when the first show had more than 10 million viewers. In the United Kingdom, that is a phenomenal number, and that level of excitement has sustained throughout the show's nine seasons.

Despite the demands on their time while doing Dancing on Ice -- they choreograph all the routines -- last month, Torvill, 56, and Dean, 55, performed a re-creation of their iconic free dance to Ravel's "Bolero" in Sarajevo to mark the 30th anniversary of their Olympic win.

This Sunday, Dancing on Ice, the fantastically successful competition show that pairs celebrities with professional skaters, will come to an end. Season nine has been an all-star season with past champions and audience favorites. Before the grand finale, Torvill and Dean answered some questions for icenetwork. True to form, their answers were given together.

Icenetwork: How did it come about for you to skate "Bolero" in Sarajevo in honor of your Olympic anniversary?

Torvill and Dean: We were actually invited back to Sarajevo by the mayors of Sarajevo and East Sarajevo and thought it was a wonderful opportunity, and were excited by the idea of performing at the same arena where we won gold in the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Icenetwork: You have skated interpretations of "Bolero" on Dancing on Ice many times. How did this performance feel different?

Torvill and Dean: We stayed as close as we could to the original performance but made a few changes to keep it fresh while still ensuring that the essence of the gold-medal-winning performance was still there. It felt incredible to perform the "Bolero" in front of the people of Sarajevo, and they were so appreciative. When we asked if anyone in the audience had been there on the night that we won gold, about 70 percent of the crowd put their hands up. It was wonderful.

Icenetwork: These costumes were such a beautiful homage to the originals. What did it feel like to put them on?

Torvill and Dean: We had the costumes specially made to be as close to the originals as possible, and it brought back so many memories to be wearing the costumes again while waiting to go onto the ice for the anniversary event. We will get to wear them again when we perform the "Bolero" for the last time when we're on the final Dancing on Ice live tour next month.

Icenetwork: It is very hard to believe 30 years have passed, especially when you skate so beautifully on Dancing on Ice. What was it like for you to reflect back on that time -- especially upon meeting one of the former flower girls?

Torvill and Dean: Our return to Sarajevo was extremely emotional. So much has happened in the intervening period, both in our own lives and in Sarajevo. Since Sarajevo was the venue in which we won Olympic gold, it will always have a special place in our hearts. Meeting the flower girl 30 years on, who was there with her own daughter, was overwhelming, as we'd often wondered about what might have happened to her during the war years, and it was wonderful to see her there with a family of her own.

We also brought eight exceptionally talented junior British skaters with us to Sarajevo. We are hoping that the experience they had in Sarajevo will help inspire them, as it inspired us, to further successes.

Icenetwork: How important has your Olympic success been to your subsequent career, and could you have imagined in 1984 that 30 years later you would have gone on to achieve everything you have achieved?

Torvill and Dean: Our Olympic success was extremely important and opened doors to future milestones in our careers and gave us opportunities that we would never have had otherwise. We have been extremely fortunate, and a lot of that fortune may be attributed directly or indirectly to our performance in the Sarajevo Olympics. Over 24 million people in the United Kingdom watched us dancing "Bolero" live in the Sarajevo Olympics, and this remains one of the largest television audiences for any event in the United Kingdom. The extent of the support back home came as a bit of a shock.

Perhaps inevitably, "Bolero" became our signature tune and to this day features prominently in the final of our television series, Dancing on Ice, and also on our Dancing on Ice live tour in the United Kingdom. (Finalists on the TV show perform their own interpretations of "Bolero," and on the live tour, the audience votes as to which couple will perform it at each show.)

We did not and could not know to what extent "Bolero" would shape our future. Everything is linked, and we are delighted that we are still skating 30 years on.

Icenetwork: Are there any current competitors who capture your attention?

Torvill and Dean: We're big supporters of Nick Buckland and Penny Coomes (British ice dance champions), who are also from Nottingham. They performed brilliantly at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (finishing 10th), and the next Winter Olympics will be theirs.

Icenetwork: What advice do you have for aspiring young skaters?

Torvill and Dean: When we started skating, we had no thoughts of competing in the Olympics. We were just excited to get on the ice, to take lessons and to improve as skaters. We could never have dreamed that we would go on to have the success that we have had both at the Olympics and, subsequently, as professional ice dancers.

It is critical, above all, that aspiring skaters enjoy their sport so that the many sacrifices they will have to make in order to compete at a high level are not really a problem. We only realized that we might have a chance at an Olympic medal in our early 20s. We then gave up our jobs to focus full time on our skating. We were fortunate to be awarded a grant from Nottingham Council so that we could work hard to achieve our goal of being the best that we could be in time for the Sarajevo Olympics.

To win an Olympic medal takes a lot of hard work. Luck also plays an important part. But the harder you work, the luckier you get. Our dream started small and got bigger and bigger.

Icenetwork: As Dancing on Ice is coming to a close, how has the experience with this series stretched you creatively as skaters, choreographers and people?

Torvill and Dean: It's been exciting to be able to go all out for the final series with such a brilliant team of celebrities and their professional skating partners, which has allowed us to work harder and be rewarded with some exceptional skating in return. We've made sure that the routines that we've given each of the skating pairs has been something that they've had to work hard to get right, and then given them performances to be proud of. It's been hard work, but it's been worth it.

Now, the celebrities and their skaters are heading out across the U.K. to huge arenas as part of the Dancing on Ice final live tour, so the fans of the show can see them doing the routines live on the ice. The difference between the TV show and the live tour is that the ice rinks are so much bigger when we're in the arenas, and so we have to adapt the routines in order to fill the space, and that gives the celebrities and their skating partners a lot more freedom to really push themselves and fill the entire space with their performances.

Icenetwork: Brilliant choice to finish with an all-star season. How challenging has it been to create choreography for celebrities who have done signature programs like Sam Attwater's Riverdance, Hayley Tamaddon's "Jai Ho" and Suzanne Shaw's "Music?"

Torvill and Dean: They're all so talented, and it's been a pleasure to have them all together in the final series. Some of the things that they've achieved during their time with Dancing on Ice has been remarkable, and there are a few who are now at professional standard, so that's given us the freedom to push them creatively in order to get the best out of them and give them show-stopping routines.

Icenetwork: Can you let readers in on what your final "Bolero" on Dancing on Ice might feature?

Torvill and Dean: We never say never anymore after we said we were retiring in 1998 and then came out of retirement to do Dancing on Ice. However, there's a chance that the final Dancing on Ice live tour will be the last time people will be able to see us performing the "Bolero," as we feel that, after 30 years, it could be time to put it away and concentrate on new and exciting projects for the future.

The Dancing on Ice U.K. tour runs from March 28 to April 27.