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Torvill and Dean prepare for return of 'Dancing'

Iconic ice dance duo return to smash TV show in January

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's "Bolero" free dance still inspires today.
Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's "Bolero" free dance still inspires today. (Neil Reading PR)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(11/28/2011) - This is a hectic time of year for 1984 Olympic ice dancing gold medalists and four-time (1981-84) world champions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. The seventh season of their British television series Dancing on Ice (akin to Skating with the Stars) starts in January.

The celebrity/pro skater partnerships have begun practicing together, and Torvill and Dean are choreographing routines for each couple. It's a time of creative energy and excitement.

"I think because our celebrities watch the show if they know they're going to be doing it, they look back on what's gone before them," Torvill said. "Quite a few of them -- especially the competitive ones -- think, 'I want to be better than that.'

"So the standard each year has gotten higher and higher, which is exciting for us -- to think what we can achieve with people who have never skated or are relatively unknown to skating."

The last two seasons the champions -- Hayley Tamaddon (2010) and Sam Attwater (2011) -- reached incredibly high levels. Each skated routines that became classics. For Tamaddon and partner Daniel Whiston, it was to the song "Jai Ho," and for Attwater and his partner, Brianne Delcourt, it was a Riverdance routine.

The show's panel of judges includes head judge and 1980 Olympic men's gold medalist Robin Cousins. The audience also gets involved, voting for which couple will skate an interpretation of Torvill and Dean's classic "Bolero" program.

"We always say the TV show came about because of 'Bolero'," said Dean, whose free dance with Torvill at the 1984 Olympic Winter Games earned nine 6.0s for artistic merit. "It's 'Bolero' that gave us our window to the world and popularity. This show is all based around teaching you to skate to the point where [in] the final performance you put your interpretation on that dance.

"It's very special," he added. "It's not sacred, but it is a sense of people sort of paying homage to it."

Following each season, Torvill and Dean as well as several of the show's participants go on tour. (A DVD of the 2011 version called Torvill & Dean's Dancing on Ice - The Live Tour 2011 was released earlier this month.) At one stop, the honor of skating "Bolero" fell to American rapper Vanilla Ice and his partner, Katie Stainsby.

"He didn't know what to do," Torvill recalled. "He practiced it at some point, but not recently. It was almost as if his partner had to talk him through it.

"He somehow added these little body popping moments into it," she continued. "It was really funny. He got quite into doing it."

Dean said at this point in their lives the relatively short length of the tour (5-6 weeks) is perfect.

"It's great fun because the celebrities that do it just get better because they're performing the same number each night," he said. "It's also great for the pros because we give them opportunities to shine and do their own thing as well."

Now in their 50s, Torvill and Dean said their bodies occasionally remind them of how many years it's been since they won Olympic gold, but that hasn't dimmed their enthusiasm. After taking a seven-year break from skating from 1998-2005, Torvill said this latest phase of their careers is "amazing."

"I'm really, really enjoying it," she said. "I love that I can still do it, and I love that we're still continuing to learn and do new things all the time."