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Torvill and Dean reveal the secret to staying together so long as the ice dancing duo finally hang up their skates after 50 years of enchanting the world with their magical routines


Half a century is quite an achievement for any double act. ‘Morecambe & Wise didn’t last that long,’ Christopher Dean tells me. ‘Even Fred [Astaire] and Ginger [Rogers] only did ten films together.’

He nods at his partner, Jayne Torvill: ‘She’s getting old . . .’ — Jayne feigns outrage — ‘We’re both getting old,’ he adds hastily. ‘At our age, things break.’

For skating fans worldwide, this has been a bittersweet week. On a visit to Sarajevo to mark the 40th anniversary of their landmark Valentine’s Day performance of Ravel’s Bolero at the 1984 Winter Olympics — a routine that rewrote the rules for what was possible in ice dance — Jayne Torvill, 66, and Christopher Dean, 65, announced they are hanging up their skates for good.

A final UK tour next year to mark their Golden Jubilee and that will be it for one of sport’s most famous partnerships.

Pictured: Legendary ice-skaters Jane Torvill (left) and Christopher Dean (centre) in Sarajevo with Iram Ramzam (right)

Pictured: Legendary ice-skaters Jane Torvill (left) and Christopher Dean (centre) in Sarajevo with Iram Ramzam (right)

Ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean of Great Britain ice dancing to 'Bolero' at the Winter Olympic Games in Yugoslavia in 1984

Ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean of Great Britain ice dancing to ‘Bolero’ at the Winter Olympic Games in Yugoslavia in 1984

‘It’s a good time to stop,’ Chris says. ‘And the tour will be a celebration.’

I’m sure there will be a lump in our throat closer to the time,’ Jayne smiles.

For now, back in what was Sarajevo’s Zetra Stadium (now a concert hall), they are reminiscing about that day —February 14, 1984 — when they stepped out on to the ice in front of 15,000 spectators to make history.

Back home, 24 million people were glued to their TVs, making it one of the most-watched events ever broadcast.

‘This spot changed our life,’ Christopher says. ‘It was the launching pad for our career: it allowed us to go on skating tours and Dancing On Ice.’

Jayne adds: ‘For us, it’s hallowed ground. We feel very privileged and honoured to be back here.’

No one who watched it that night will ever forget it. The crowd fell silent as the haunting music, slow, insistent, mesmeric, began, and two kneeling figures, dressed in flowing purple — Jayne’s favourite colour — started to sway.

Then they moved with effortless grace around the rink, picking up pace with the music as they executed perfect turns, lifts, jumps, spins and holds, towards the slowly building orchestral crescendo — and that climactic ending when both lay prone on the ice.

Their performance was a perfect marriage of athleticism, skill and beauty — a self-choreographed work of art to what, I discovered, had once been their ‘warm-up’ music.

To this day they can’t give a definitive answer to the question: who actually picked Bolero to dance to?

‘I think I said: ‘What about Bolero?’, Chris ventures as Jayne scowls mockingly at him. The actor Michael Crawford was their ‘secret weapon’, the man they credit with teaching them how to bring alive the passionate story of love and sex with which the music is associated.

On a visit to Sarajevo to mark the 40th anniversary of their Valentine's Day performance Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean (pictured) announced they are hanging up their skates for good

On a visit to Sarajevo to mark the 40th anniversary of their Valentine’s Day performance Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean (pictured) announced they are hanging up their skates for good

A final UK tour next year to mark their Golden Jubilee and that will be it for one of sport’s most famous partnerships. Pictured: The ice dancers performing at the European Figure Skating Championships in 1982, France

A final UK tour next year to mark their Golden Jubilee and that will be it for one of sport’s most famous partnerships. Pictured: The ice dancers performing at the European Figure Skating Championships in 1982, France

Olympics rules stated that the dance had to be four minutes long (plus or minus ten seconds), but the shortest they could get it down to was four minutes, 28 seconds. But because a routine is timed from the moment a couple starts to dance, Torvill and Dean realised they could use Bolero if they did not place their blades on the ice for the first 18 seconds — hence that swaying introduction on the spot.

And what was it like to perform it?

‘It felt like we were both in our bubble at first,’ Chris says. ‘Our hearts were pounding, but then the music kicked in and it was like we were in a trance.’

‘We were certainly ready for it,’ says Jayne. ‘At the end it felt like we had woken up from a trance. And yes, we had done it. And we made no mistakes. I felt like we had done it as good as we could.’

The judges agreed. All nine awarded them the maximum 6.0 points. The gold medal was theirs.

Back then, an Iron Curtain still divided Europe, and Bosnia and Herzegovina — of which Sarajevo is now the capital — was part of the former Yugoslavia. Yet Sarajevans had high hopes for their country, as athletes from around the world arrived for the Winter Olympics.

For this Balkan city, blessed with a rich Ottoman and Austrian architectural heritage, war seemed very far away. Yet within a decade, some 100,000 people would be killed — including the genocide of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica — and much of the city would be laid to waste.

It has tried its best to heal those scars, and Torvill and Dean’s visit this week was the initiative of Sarajevo mayor Benjamina Karic and Julian Reilly, British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, a reminder of the city’s glory days as an Olympic host. It included a children’s skating class.

‘They might be future Olympians,’ Chris says. ‘The future us.’ It was in their East Midlands home city of Nottingham that the pair’s own journey began.

Chris first stepped on the ice aged ten after getting skates for Christmas. ‘I walked around the house in my skates at first!’

Jayne fell in love with the sport on a school trip aged eight, begging her mum for a pair of white skates.

For now, back in what was Sarajevo’s Zetra Stadium (now a concert hall), they are reminiscing about that day —February 14, 1984 — when they stepped out on to the ice in front of 15,000 spectators to make history. Pictured: Torvill and Dean during the Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway

For now, back in what was Sarajevo’s Zetra Stadium (now a concert hall), they are reminiscing about that day —February 14, 1984 — when they stepped out on to the ice in front of 15,000 spectators to make history. Pictured: Torvill and Dean during the Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway

Chris first stepped on the ice aged ten after getting skates for Christmas. ‘I walked around the house in my skates at first!’ Jayne fell in love with the sport on a school trip aged eight, begging her mum for a pair of white skates

Chris first stepped on the ice aged ten after getting skates for Christmas. ‘I walked around the house in my skates at first!’ Jayne fell in love with the sport on a school trip aged eight, begging her mum for a pair of white skates

They honed their craft separately until they were paired in 1975 by coach Janet Sawbridge. They had to combine their passion for ice dance and competition with earning a living: Jayne as an insurance clerk and Chris as a police officer.

After their Olympic, Europeans and World Championship success — they won the latter professional title five times — Torvill and Dean retired from competition in 1998, returning to the spotlight in 2006 for ITV’s Dancing On Ice.

At first they were coaches and choreographers, before joining the judges in 2016 — and they continue to thrill audiences with their own skating routines.

While they praise modern athletes, they feel they had more freedom in their day. ‘When we did Bolero, the only criteria was the length of music and no more than five lifts. Now the rule book is this thick . . .’ explains Christopher.

He is the more extrovert of the pair, but they are very comfortable together, with a tendency to finish off each other’s sentences.

No wonder there has always been speculation about a romance between them. Jayne says they made a ‘conscious decision’ to put their ice-dance partnership first.

Christopher jokes: ‘Maybe that’s why we’ve stayed together for long — because we never got married!’

Today, both are in happy relationships with other people. Jayne lives in East Sussex with her husband of 34 years. Christopher has been in a relationship with Karen Barber since 2011 and has two sons with Jill Trenary. Pictured: After winning the 1984 European Ice Dance title

Today, both are in happy relationships with other people. Jayne lives in East Sussex with her husband of 34 years. Christopher has been in a relationship with Karen Barber since 2011 and has two sons with Jill Trenary. Pictured: After winning the 1984 European Ice Dance title 

Torvill and Dean still draw crowds in Sarajevo. When we visit the apartment blocks where they stayed during the Olympics, several people run out of a cafe to take selfies with them. Pictured: At the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Norway

Torvill and Dean still draw crowds in Sarajevo. When we visit the apartment blocks where they stayed during the Olympics, several people run out of a cafe to take selfies with them. Pictured: At the 1994 Winter Olympic Games in Norway

Today, both are in happy relationships with other people. Jayne lives in East Sussex with her husband of 34 years, sound engineer Phil Christensen, and their children, Kieran, 21, and Jessica, 17.

Christopher has been in a relationship with Dancing on Ice star Karen Barber since 2011 and has two sons, Jack, 25, and Sam, 23, with Jill Trenary, the second of his ex-wives.

Torvill and Dean still draw crowds in Sarajevo. When we visit the apartment blocks where they stayed during the Olympics, several people run out of a cafe to take selfies with them.

Dragana Tiric was 18 when she watched their live performance on TV. ‘I’m a big fan!’ she tells me.

At 37, local business owner Zahid Dzambegovic wasn’t even born then. But, like many in this city, he knows who they are and asks them to sign a photograph. ‘I’m so proud to see them here,’ he smiles. ‘The Olympics were so big for Bosnia.’

Later, Torvill and Dean perform Bolero once more. It’s not quite the same as 40 years ago, but it still thrills the audience.

That farewell tour is destined to be a sell-out.

Torvill & Dean: Our Last Dance UK Tour, April 12-May 11, 2025. Tickets available at torvillanddean.com



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