Torvill and Dean: The birth and revival of the Bolero routine

Bolero - The Making of a Masterpiece

  • Date: Thursday, 13 February
  • Starts: 19:30 GMT

Coverage: BBC Radio 5 live Sport

Thirty years after their historic Olympic-winning performance, British figure skaters Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean are recreating their memorable Bolero routine.

Torvill and Dean clinched gold at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo after becoming the highest scoring figure skaters of all time.

Now the Nottingham pair, aged 56 and 55, are returning to the ice in the Bosnian city for a special anniversary performance on Thursday.

BBC Sport's Eleanor Oldroyd remembers the night that Torvill and Dean became household names across the world:

On Valentine's Night, 1984, the world watched, breathless, as a pinnacle of sporting perfection was reached in Sarajevo.

In a swirl of purple silk chiffon, to the pounding rhythm of Maurice Ravel's Bolero, a police constable and an insurance clerk from Nottingham skated the performance of a lifetime, captivating not only a vast TV audience, but the notoriously hard-to-please judges.

Torvill and Dean record

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean

1978 - Finish fourth at their first European Championships and 11th in their first World Championships

1979 - Sixth in the European Championships and eighth in the World Championships

1980 - Become British National Dance Champions for the first time. Finish fourth in the 1980 European Championships and fifth in the 1980 Olympics

1981 - Win the World and European Championships for the first time

1982 - Win the World and European Championships

1983 - Win the World Championships

1984 - Win the European Championships and the World Championships, the latter for the fourth time in a row, as well as the Olympic gold medal for their dance to Ravel's Bolero in Sarajevo

1994 - Win the European Championships

1994 - Make a dramatic return to the Olympic stage in Lillehammer, Norway, winning the bronze medal

1998 - Perform for the last time on the 'Canadian Stars on Ice' tour and announce their retirement

1999 - Awarded OBEs

For artistic impression, they produced a row of perfect sixes - and Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean were Olympic champions.

It's a story that is very familiar to most of us, whether we're old enough to remember that night 30 years ago or not. But the Bolero routine was born not on an ice rink or in a concert hall, but over dinner in the west London home of Courtney Jones and Bobby Thompson, friends and mentors to Torvill and Dean.

Courtney was a former ice dance champion, a figure-skating judge and a dress designer, while Bobby was a leading coach. Jayne and Chris would frequently turn to them to talk over ideas for the show-stopping routines that had, at that point, taken them to three World Championships.

Chris already had in mind the music he wanted for the free programme for the season that would include the 1984 Winter Olympics - a number from the Broadway musical 42nd Street.

But their hosts that night in Notting Hill were not so keen.

"Courtney was doing the cooking and I was in the kitchen and we heard 42nd Street go on," recalls Bobby. "We both looked at each other and said - absolutely no way. Olympic year, it's too much like Mack and Mabel, Barnum - been there, done that. We need something completely different.

"Christopher's face dropped to the floor - he wasn't a very happy little warrior. And I remember Jayne's words: 'Chris, it's no good; they haven't led us wrong yet.'"

A quick dash to the car, a pile of cassettes, and when Bolero came on, there was instant agreement. It was a number that would change the face of ice dancing.

The usual practice at that time was to edit together three different pieces of music, with varying moods and speeds. But Ravel's piece had a continuous flow, with a building crescendo and a dramatic climax.

Having chosen the soundtrack, the rest of the programme followed very quickly afterwards, including the iconic dip-dyed purple pleated chiffon.

Torvill talks Olympic gold

"I suppose one has a visual picture of a complete performance," Courtney says. "The music inspires the dance, but the music also inspires the costume. Because the music was very flowing, we wanted to find something that would flow equally as well."

The problem was that the silk chiffon only came in a solid colour, not in the shaded ombre effect that Courtney wanted. So they hung the fabric from a string in their basement, with a bucket of purple dye underneath, and every few hours they would pull it out a little bit more, leaving the bottom darker than the top.

And the wooden spoon, previously used to stir the casserole they'd had for dinner, was pressed into service as a dye-stirrer. It's one of the few souvenirs of that period to have survived the last 30 years in Courtney and Bobby's collection - and it's still purple.

You could call it the Spoon of Serendipity.