Dancers Torvill, Dean return to melt ice at world championships

December 07, 1990|By Susan Reimer | Susan Reimer,Sun Staff Correspondent

LANDOVER -- Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean took ice dancing from Fred-and-Ginger ballroom-boring to a new level when they won the Olympic gold medal in 1984 with "Bolero."

It was not so much a higher level of skill as it was a new inner level.

The British couple abandoned the traditional dancers' embrace for an intricate weaving of arms and legs that only hinted at the fabric of human responses that they sought to convey.

dTC Those complexities -- both physical and emotional -- will be on display tomorrow night at the Capital Centre at 7 p.m. when Torvill and Dean, whose names are legendary even outside the skating community, return to head-to-head competition for the first time since 1984 in the NutraSweet World Professional Figure Skating Championships.

"We don't want to be sequins and cheeky smiles," said Dean, 32, who choreographs their work. "We want to see the depths of what skating is all about.

L "We consider it a dance form and an experiment of movement."

Said Torvill, the canvas on which Dean paints: "Ice dancing -- skating -- deserves more credibility than it gets, especially as it is presented on television."

And so, the couple from Nottingham, England, that has so profoundly influenced a generation of skaters and brought huge popular audiences to skating with their box-office-busting world tours, will see what nine judges chosen by the International Professional Skaters Union think.

They participated in this event in 1984 and 1985, when it was a gerry-rigged team competition to save the egos of the stars.

This time, a $40,000 first prize and their place on the marquee among the skating champions who have succeeded them are at stake.

"It is the most difficult [ice dancing] we have ever done," said Torvill, 33, after she and her partner finished rehearsing a tango done in part without music and entirely without gaiety.

"We wanted to bring the rawness back," said Dean, "not something sterile and nice."

Dean's choreography is the trademark of this pair, and it is as impossible to describe as it is, it seems, to do.

It was he who choreographed the primitive and brutal love dance performed by Isabelle and Paul Duchenay in the 1988 Olympics.

"For me, it was a vindication," said Dean of a performance that brought ovations from the crowd but only mediocre marks from the Olympic judges.

"The public enjoyed it."

"But," said Torvill, with a gentle shrug, "they did not get away with it. They were marked down."

Dean will continue to coach the Duchenays and choreograph their performances for the 1992 Games and, indeed, will marry Isabelle in May.

Torvill is a newlywed, too, recently having married American Philip Christensen, a sound engineer who worked on the U.S. leg of their last world tour.

"I imagine the babies will come," she said, smiling self-consciously.

It is little wonder that after two world tours -- one that lasted 18 months and the second, two years -- that these two pioneers might be longing for home and hearth.

"It takes three years of your life to do a tour," said Torvill.

"That is nine pieces a day, six days a week, seven performances," said Dean. "I don't think our lifestyle is ready for another two-year tour."

But, he said with conviction, "The team is still intact and will continue to be intact.

"For us, dancing is not a competitive thing, it is a statement, a dialogue."

And there is real pleasure in eavesdropping.

NOTES: Brian Boitano, who has won the men's competition here twice since his Olympic gold-medal-winning performance in Calgary, Alberta, in 1988, is still nursing tendinitis in his hip, but executed four triple jumps yesterday in practice, after a 10-day layoff, and will perform. . . . Where is Katarina Witt? The Olympic gold medalist and Boitano's partner in Skating II has signed an exclusive agreement with Jefferson-Pilot for a series of professional competitions like this one, but none has been planned yet. . . . Dean is the choreographer for Soviet ice dancers Natalia Annenko and Genrikh Sretenski, perhaps Torvill and Dean's most serious challengers. . . . This same group of skaters goes on to Barcelona, Spain, Dec. 14 for the Challenge of Champions, the European version of this competition. It will be shown on ABC in early 1991.

Facts and figures

What: NutraSweet World Professional Figure Skating Championships

Site: Capital Centre, Landover, tomorrow, 7 p.m.

Tickets: About 2,000 of 18,000 tickets are left. $35 and $22.50.

Available by calling TicketCenter at 481-6000.

TV: A tape of the 11th annual championships will be televised by NBC on "SportsWorld" Jan. 26-27.

Women: Two-time defending champion Debi Thomas; Denise Biellmann, who defeated Thomas in the Challenge of Champions, the Moscow stop in this event; Elizabeth Manley of Canada, in her first pro competition since upsetting Thomas for the Olympic silver medal in Calgary in 1988; Rosalynn Sumners, the 1984 silver medalist and third-place finisher last year.

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