SOCHI, Russia/SARAJEVO (Reuters) - It was a Valentine’s Day performance that began with an ex-policeman and a former insurance clerk kneeling on the ice for 18 seconds as they slowly swayed to the strains of Ravel’s Bolero with their arms outstretched.
That start, the two bodies flung across the ice in the dramatic finale and the captivating storytelling that went on in between for four minutes and 28 seconds at the Sarajevo Olympics left a worldwide audience awestruck.
As Britain’s Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean celebrate the 30th anniversary of what they call ‘Bolero Day’ on Friday, they have returned to the venue of their triumph to recreate an Olympic moment that earned them a row of perfect 6.0s in 1984 and that still gives goosebumps to everyone watching.
“We didn’t realize that it was going to be so special at the time,” Dean, still looking fit and toned at the age of 55, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
Torvill, 56, added: “It was special for us, it was different from anything we’ve ever done before but we didn’t realize we’d still be talking about it 30 years later.”
“Or even performing it,” quipped Dean.
Just as masterpieces by Leonardo Da Vinci, epics by Leo Tolstoy and Beatles songs have stood the test of time, Torvill and Dean’s Bolero set a benchmark for skating perfection and is still one of the most iconic Olympic images three decades on.
“In our heads we really believed in it and we thought that it was going to be unique because at that time nobody had really used classical music in this way,” Dean said.
“We were very sure that would bring people along this journey that we were trying to create.”
Torvill added: “I think that music build and builds, and that’s how with the choreography we tried to start very slowly, very simply, and then it got more intricate, more speed, more power building to the end and also lots of eye contact and emotion.”
It is hard to believe that a routine that stirred so many emotions could not have been created if the duo were competing at this year’s Sochi Olympics.
A change in the rules and judging format over the past decade would have meant the routine being, as Torvill exclaimed, “Totally illegal and we’d have been disqualified!”
Luckily for them, it was a different time and a different place and on Thursday they took a nostalgic audience on a trip down memory lane at the rebuilt Zetra Hall, which was destroyed by the bombings during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
Wearing more up-to-date versions of the flowing purple costumes that have become as memorable as the music and routine, they had the crowd on their feet as they glided around the ice.
It is a routine that is still admired by the skaters competing at this year’s Olympics in Russia, the majority of whom were not even born in 1984, although recreating that magic seems to be beyond the current generation.
“There are certainly a lot of rules and regulations now within the sport that everybody has to do and therefore everybody starts to look similar,” said Dean.
“There is not always time for an emotional part of the routine, it’s always kind of like doing business, we got to get this done, we got to get that done. The difficulty is putting that emotion into all of these regulations.”
Torvill added: ”I think it stops a little bit of creativity because of having to contain certain rules and steps which may not necessarily fit with the music that skaters chose.
“But I think maybe that’s a challenge for one couple to come up with something that has all of that.”
Sochi ice dance gold medal favorites Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States have tried to experiment by creating out-of-the-box programs, with their Bollywood-themed short dance from four years ago winning rave reviews.
But Davis acknowledged that the British couple remain untouchable.
“It is a program that we watched many times - I think every dancer has. Even now their innovation, it stands to this day and it is just so impressive so we are all kind of still in awe of them,” she told Reuters.
However, there are some people closer to home who are not as enamored.
“My kids... live in America and I don’t think they understand the impact that it had,” grinned Dean. “You know, daddy was a skater and won an Olympic medal and that’s what he does.”
Writing by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ken Ferris