Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean’s 1984 free skate for the gold medal in ice dancing stunned people everywhere. The two Brits mesmerized us with both their technical ability—receiving unprecedented 6.0s from every single judge—and their chemistry, which sizzled in a very sexually charged rendition of Ravel’s “Bolero.” The choice to use only one piece of music for a skating program (usually there are three) created a challenge in that the beat and tempo would never change. Furthermore, this particular piece of music repeats the same melody over and over. Even the composer called it “incessant.” Ravel made “Bolero” hypnotic and riveting by layering instruments at it progressed, building a titillating intensity. Torvill and Dean’s choreography had the same effect.
This performance was clearly the climax of the Olympic competition in Sarajevo, and the two skaters became the center of a global media frenzy. Everyone wanted to know everything about them and whether they were romantically involved because they had to be in order to do what they did on the ice (they were not). The attention was so fanatical that Dean said, “The only time Jayne and I have any privacy is when we are on the ice in front of thousands of people.”