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Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean

Bound For Sarajevo

Recognizing that they had the potential to rise to the top of the international standings, Torvill and Dean committed themselves to full-time training in 1980. (The Nottingham City Council staked the two to a $21,000 grant, freeing them to pursue their craft.) In 1981 the team took the European ice dancing championship, which had been dominated by Soviet skaters for the previous decade. By 1982 Torvill and Dean were the pair to beat, ranking first in the world and netting perfect "6.0" scores.

Skating fans soon noticed a difference in the presentation of the two dancers. They elevated their routines to display a physical and emotional intimacy that led many to believe that the partners were romantically involved off the ice. But the two were quick to refute that belief. "This is constant, unglamorous work," Dean told Ottum. Torvill and Dean eventually married, but not each other.

In 1983, Torvill and Dean scored an unprecedented nine perfect "sixes" in artistic impression at the world championship. Setting their sights on Sarajevo, the ice dancers decided to push the artistic envelope by choosing "Bolero" for their accompaniment. "Bolero" was seen as a contentious piece of music for ice dancing, as it featured a single repetitive tempo instead of changes of rhythm. But as they entered the arena in Zetra, Yugoslavia, Torvill and Dean prepared to show the world a new form of ice dance.

The music began. "Not since the great Soviet pair of the '60s, Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov," wrote B. J. Phillips of Time, "has anyone in skating so melded music, blades and bodies into a unified whole. Torvill and Dean performed an extended pas de deux in which difficult athletic feats are made to appear effortless, though the beat is so slow that the skaters can never build momentum. Like the music, the movements are eerily erotic and mesmerizing." Life writer Robert Sullivan saw the performance as groundbreaking: "There were no tempo shifts but rather sustained elegance, cohesion, narrative, drama. This was dancing: a Swan Lake to everyone else's prom night." When the scores were posted, again history was made: the skaters not only scored across-the-board sixes in artistic impression, but also in technical merit.

Torvill and Dean took home the gold medal and left behind a new standard for ice dancing. From then on, many pairs sought to recreate the sensuality of the two Britons. For years, "team after team of T&D wannabes spilled onto the ice in Grand Guignol costuming," wrote Sullivan. "Nostrils perpetually aflare, the new generation of ice dancers—too many of them artless and only modestly talented—acted out their wildest passions and torments, climaxing in death swoon after death swoon."

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsFigure SkatingJayne Torvill and Christopher Dean Biography - Sport Or Art?, Bound For Sarajevo, A Challenge In Lillehamer, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments - CONTACT INFORMATION, SELECTED WRITINGS BY TORVILL AND DEAN: