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Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean talk about the return of Dancing on Ice

By Andy Richardson | Entertainment | Published:

They told us they were through. Torvill and Dean, the nation’s favourite ice skaters, insisted they’d done their last Dancing on Ice tour. And you believed them? Ha. They lied. They’re back.

Like Status Quo and Frank Sinatra, Torvill and Dean can’t leave it alone. So while they definitely, definitely, definitely insisted that there’d be no more tours or TV programmes after the ITV’s ninth series in 2014, they’re giving it a spin on the ice for one last time. Probably. Unless they decide to do it again.

When they bade us farewell three years ago, it seemed the perfect time to say goodbye. They were riding the crest of a wave and looking towards the 30th anniversary of Bolero and their Olympic gold in Sarajevo. It seemed a fitting time to bow out. As they said at the time, they wanted to go out on a high.

They even got a little dewy-eyed, telling us then: “We have loved every minute of Dancing on Ice, it has been a real pleasure to work on one of the UK¹s most popular entertainment shows. We will miss it hugely and would like to thank all of our fans for their continued support over the years.”

So what changed? Has their pension fund run dry, are they bored of Countdown, do they need to find another Todd Carty to make a vertical exit from the ice? Why in Heaven’s name are Torvill and Dean back on the ice?

Chris – Dean – has a simple answer: “Because we love it.”

Jayne – Torvill – adds: “We missed it.”

And perhaps that’s no surprise. The couple who wowed 24 million people in 1984 at the Winter Olympics when they became the highest scoring figures skaters of all time with 12 perfect 6.0s, are national treasures. Their Dancing On Ice show was watched by more than 10 million viewers and the £250,000 cheques they received as coaches wouldn’t have gone amiss. It’s more than they’d earn at the local rink.

The TV series will be back on our screens early next year and the line-up will feature an eclectic bunch of celebrity dancers. Brooke Vincent, the Coronation Street actress who plays Sophie Webster, will be lining up alongside Cheryl Baker, the Bucks Fizz member and TV presenter; Kem Cetinay, the reality star and winner of Love Island 2017; Candice Brown, the Great British Bake Off winner and Sunday Times baking columnist, and Max Evans, the Scottish rugby player.

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They will be joined by Monty Panesar, the England cricket star; Donna Air, the Geordie socialite and James Middleton’s ex; Alex Beresford, the Good Morning Britain weatherman; Antony Cotton, the Corrie star who plays Sean Tully; Stephanie Waring, the Hollyoaks star who plays Cindy Cunningham; Perri Shakes-Drayton, the track athlete; and Jake Quickenden, the X Factor and I’m a Celebrity star.

Once that’s done, they’ll be hitting the road to take their arena show to the biggest venues in the UK, playing to tens of thousands of fans.

Chris can’t wait: “We are looking forward to it. We’ve had that hiatus we’ve been away. It’s simple really. You don’t know what you miss until it’s gone. After a couple of years out we’re ready to come back.

“We needed a pause after series nine and the 30th anniversary since we competed at the Olympics. It seemed the right time to take a pause. But after a while we said to each other, we miss it.”

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So when ITV approached them about bringing the show back, it didn’t take long to reach an agreement. The duo will be joining forces with Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby, who have been confirmed as the presenters for the new series. The duo hosted the show for the first six years between 2006 and 2011, before Holly stood down for Christine Bleakley to take over.

The show is being given a fresh look and is determined to up its game as it competes in a crowded market place against such reality shows as X Factor, The Voice, Big Brother and Strictly Come Dancing.

Chris adds: “ITV started talking about it about a year ago. They were talking about a comeback. They asked us and of course we said we would do it.”

Jayne missed the buzz of live TV. And she missed the excitement of the big arenas. “We enjoy live entertainment and going out each night on the tour. It’s so exciting when you’re getting ready, when you’re back stage and you’re listening to the audience. The anticipation builds and you hear all the kids getting excited about the show.”

Chris adds: “It’s the same with TV. There’s this sense of excitement and fear and anticipation.”

Their roles have changed and they won’t be coaching the celebrities through the new series. Instead, they’ll take a step back and work as judges, offering constructive criticism as the likes of Brooke, Cheryl and Candice take their first, tentative steps on the ice.

Jayne says: “We enjoy it as judges because we see the improvement right in front of our eyes from week to week. Before, when we were working with the contestants throughout the week, we were almost too close to see those subtle improvements.”

Chris says: “I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised.”

Jayne adds: “I want to be wowed.”

Dancing on Ice earned a special place in the nation’s affections. With judges like Robin Cousins, Karen Barber, Jason Gardiner, Nicky Slater and Ashley Banjo, they unearthed a panel who could be entertaining as well as caustic at times. And with winners such as Gaynor Faye, Kyran Bracken, Suzanne Shaw, the brilliant Ray Quinn, Hayley Tamaddon, Sam Attwater, Matthew Wolfenden and Beth Tweddle, they unearthed a number of rare talents.

The show won a series of awards and nominations, featuring in a range of categories from Most Popular Entertainment Programme and Most Popular Talent Show to Best Costume Designs and more.

The show rebooted Torvill and Dean’s careers. After turning professional in 1984, they’d made an unlikely return to the amateur arena for the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, along with other great skaters of the 1980s, such as Brian Boitano and Katarina Witt, following a change in eligibility rules. The couple moved to Hamar, Norway, in 1993 in order to practice at the Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre, which hosted the figure skating events.

They earned bronze – a disappointment after the brilliance that came 10 years earlier – and they immediately retired from competitive skating. Instead, they hit the road with a successful tour before retiring in 1998 so that they could coach and choreograph. And then, in 2006, they were catapulted back into the spotlight when they appeared as coaches, choreographers and performers in ITV’s Dancing on Ice and its Australian version Torvill and Dean’s Dancing on Ice.

Both were amazed at how popular the show became.

Chris says: “I didn’t expect that affection from the watching public. We didn’t know what to expect. We hoped for the best. When Dancing on Ice hit the screens it was an instant success and it went on from there. When we finished doing the TV show, we left it in a good place. People loved the show.”

But what did they do? Was it walks in the countryside with or riding along the open road on a Harley?

Jayne laughs. “Well, in my case, it was lots of walks in the countryside. But it was also folding the laundry and emptying the dishwasher. I enjoyed that break but when you’ve got two kids, there’s always something happening. When I have more time at home, I love being with my children. That’s what I’ve been doing.”

Chris has been living and working in the USA, where he’s one of the most in-demand choreographers and coaches. “I’ve always been on the ice and over the past three years I’ve been choreographing competitive skaters. We’re looking ahead now to the Olympics and several skaters that I’ve worked with will be competing.”

And though Chris may be coaching some of his charges to glory, it’s unlikely that any will make the impact that Torvill and Dean made with their game-changing Bolero. The dance took on a life of its own and catapulted the unassuming Nottingham dance partners to international fame. They’d previously earned a fifth-place finish at the 1980 Olympics. And their preparation for their gold-winning Sarajevo dance included work with the singer-actor Michael Crawford, who was present when they won their perfect Olympic score.

The duo remain stunned that Bolero is still remembered.

Chris says: “We couldn’t foresee the impact that the dance would have. We didn’t imagine that 30 years on people would still talk about Bolero.”

Jayne adds: “These days, there are some people who don’t know that we won gold. They just know what we skated to. They just know Bolero. The whole thing is a great honour.”

After scaling their personal Everest and winning gold, Torvill and Dean were unsure how to progress.

“They’d previously worked as an insurance booth clerk and policemen, respectively, but were able to turn professional. Their new status gave them new opportunities and they were happy to develop a fairy tale professional career.

Chris says: “To begin with, after we’d finished the Olympics, we just wondered what we would move on to? We’d done Bolero, so when we turned professional we imagined it would be different routines.

“But then it was pointed out to us by the producers of various shows that we still had to do Bolero. So Bolero has become a part of us and is our theme tune. It’s very endearing.”

The duo has been responsible for a renaissance in skating. Rinks across the UK are full these days because of their work on Dancing On Ice – just as they were back in the 1980s, following Bolero. The duo have helped to popularise the sport, just as Strictly Come Dancing has led to sold out signs at dance schools across the UK.

They are thrilled that they’ve had a positive contribution to the nation’s sporting and cultural output. And they hope that the return of their ITV show and UK arena tour will once more galvanise fans into donning boots and warm clothes so that they can take to the ice.

Jayne says: “Well, we always loved our skating when we were kids. So it’s nice that young people are doing that more and more now. It’s nice for youngsters to have a hobby rather than just being stuck in front of a computer or screen.

“When the first series went out we heard that a lot of rinks were running out of skates because so many people were going along to try it.

“That was great news for us. That season, they even installed a seasonal rink at Somerset House. Now there’s a new seasonal rink somewhere around the country every year.”

Taking Dancing On Ice on the road gives them both great joy. Jayne gets out of folding the laundry at home as she enjoys a better standard of hotel while Chris revels in the on-the-road shenanigans that are unexpected and instantaneous.

Chris says: “I think one of my favourite moments from being on the road was when I rapped with Vanilla Ice. That was fun, it was totally spontaneous. And he was alright, too. You never know what will happen. That’s the fun of it.”

The TV show also gives them great joy. They enjoy seeing the gradual progression of dancers as well as the comedy moments that ensue.

Jayne adds: “I think one of the most memorable moments for me as seeing Ray Quinn because of the amazing standard and talent that he had. He won his series and then became the Champion of Champions.”

Chris adds: “For me, it was Todd Carty. Everyone remembers him leaving the ice horizontally.”

Andy Richardson

By Andy Richardson
Feature Writer - @andyrichardson1

Feature writer and food critic Andy Richardson interviews celebrities, writes columns and hangs out with chefs for stories that appear across all group titles.

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