Torvill and Dean Biography

PHOTO: Torvill and Dean

Their Valentine’s performance of Boléro made them the hottest thing on ice. Not bad for a former insurance clerk and a policeman. So how did how the painfully shy pair glide to Olympic gold and become mentors to the celebs on ‘Dancing on Ice’?

Nottingham newsagents George and Betty had Jayne Torvill on 7 October 1957. Eight year old Jayne became hooked on ice skating during a school trip to her local ice rink. She honed her hobby with two hour practice sessions, before and after school, three times a week. The cost of these sessions, along with the specialist equipment, was a huge drain on her parents. But it was worth it to see their shy daughter shine whenever she took to the ice. Just six years later, she won the British National Pairs Champion with her then partner Michael Hutchenson. Even at a young age she was stronger than many of her peers and could hold herself in positions others couldn’t.

Christopher Dean was born 27 July 1958 in Calverton, also in Nottingham. His dad was a coal miner but both parents were keen ballroom dancers. However, his mum left and it was his stepmother that encouraged his skating. When he was ten, Dean received his first pair of ice skates as a Christmas present. His ice skating coaches remember him as both strikingly self conscious, and as a perfectionist who would practice and practice. (He’s also superstitious or, as he prefers, OCD, and when they competed, he’d always lay his skate guards exactly parallel to Torvill’s).

Like Torvill, Dean was dumped by his then dance partner who wanted to pursue London opportunities. And so, aged 16, Christopher Dean teamed up with 17 year old Jayne Torvill in 1975. Both from Nottingham and from working class backgrounds, their work ethic was intimidating. Torvill was supporting herself with a job as an insurance clerk and Dean was working as a police constable (and along with Jayne, studying ballet.) When their ice rink closed to the public at 11pm, they would start training, continuing until 3am. Dean was eventually taught how to operate the ice tractor so that the rink could be resurfaced before opening up to the public in the morning. One ice rink worker even had to turn up on Christmas Day just so they could keep to their training schedule. And the ice rink was far from high tech. Both remember the many rats with which they used to share their training area .But three years after meeting, they won the British Championships.

They then won 5th place in the 1980 New York Winter Olympics but the pair were only able to give up their jobs after a controversial Nottingham City Council grant. Nottingham born, and now backed, the couple started to attract national media attention. In 1981, after a backstage meeting, they acquired their own acting mentor in ‘Some Mothers Do Ave Em’ and later ‘Phantom of the Opera’ star, Michael Crawford. He’s credited with helping them win the world championships in 1983 with their circus inspired ‘Barnum’ piece.

Their relentless drive paid off and in 1984 they became world famous for their free programme performance of Maurice Ravel’s Boléro. 24 million people in the UK applauded as the Olympic judges at Sarajevo awarded their steamy synchronicity perfect scores, appropriately enough, on Valentine’s night.

Their fevered act was, however, just that, and they never became a romantic act off the ice. Also surprising to onlookers would have been the fact that away from the sporting spotlight, the pair were uncomfortable being interviewed. Their off-ice, on-camera nerves were characterized as a ‘rabbits-in-headlights’ approach. As Jayne was the more publicly comfortable, she would often step in to help floundering interviewers. As in so many other areas, the pair complimented each other naturally. Dean concentrated on the choreography and Jayne on the technical aspects of their performance. And so, despite decades of denials, the seemingly perfectly matched couple was always followed by the same question. Had they yet slept with each other?

Now international celebrities in an age when fame was based on talent, they decided to earn some well deserved money out of their status and turned professional. In this bygone age, however, Olympic rules meant only amateurs could compete and a full decade would pass before they would return to the Olympian stage. And when they did, many consider they were robbed of their rightful medal.

In between these Olympics, Chris married and divorced an ice dance champion whom he met while choreographing her routines. Jayne married a sound engineer and later had a son and a daughter.

Their 1994 Olympic performance was arguably gold standard but some Olympic judges still considered the return of professionals unsightly and the pair were singled out and marked down. Despite the prejudice, the couple still took home a bronze. It is of some consolation that their envy inducing 1984 performance was the first time a dancing pair received full marks, and it’s a record that remains today. And whilst they may have been robbed of gold in 1994, their professional tours in between had made them millionaires.

In 1998, they announced the end of their 23 year partnership. Two years later they both received their OBEs but apart from this, they did little in common. Both were looking after their families on different continents when they received a call from ITV about a new dance format. And so in 2006, they started skating again with their mentoring to celebrity contestants in ‘Dancing on Ice’.

The winner of that first series was British actress Gaynor Faye. But their 2008 season is perhaps best remembered for its injuries, not least when Torvill slashed Chris’s arm with the blade of her skate. And of course there was the moment when Bonnie Langford lived up to the move, the ‘headbanger’. And there were great successes as well with the novice Kyran Bracken ending up winning and performing his own ice show.

Dean now lives in America but has separated from his second skating wife with whom he had two sons. He spends Christmas in the US, and the New Year in the UK. His eldest son has severe learning difficulties and Dean finds their time apart especially demanding.

Now in their 50s, the blade runners still aren’t resting on their laurels, despite becoming legends in their own lifetimes. And while they may not be as agile as they used to be, they take comfort in the fact that less and less interviewers ask the age old question. Have they slept with each other yet?

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