Competitive ice still entices dancers Torvill and Dean

April 22, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff writer

Frozen on the Baltimore Arena ice, Christopher Dean and Jayne Torvill balance in an intertwined stance, each supporting the other at an impossible angle, their flowing costumes forming a purple and orange "X."

Does the pose have a name?

"We call it 'Happy To Be There,' " says Mr. Dean. "That's a joke, because that's the end of our program."

The British ice dancers, who won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Winter Games with their interpretation of Ravel's "Bolero," are among the headliners of the 1993 Tour of World Figure Skating Champions. Tonight's exhibition at the Baltimore Arena launches the 44-city tour.

And for Torvill & Dean, the tour also marks the end of a decade of professional skating. The pair, who dominated the ice-dance world in the early 1980s, announced last month that they plan to return to competition for the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

A rule change by the International Skating Union for the first time permits professionals to apply to compete. American Brian Boitano, the 1988 gold medalist who is also on tonight's bill, and Katarina Witt, the 1984 and 1988 gold medalist from Germany, have also announced plans to return to the Olympic arena.

"We'll start preparations for that as soon as this tour is over," said Ms. Torvill earlier this week after a practice session at the Arena.

2& Four-time world champions, Torvill

See SKATING, 2F, Col. 1 SKATING, from 1F

Dean turned professional after the 1984 Olympic games, performing with their own touring company, as well as with the Ice Capades and the Russian and Ukrainian All Star touring companies.

Because of their intensely romantic, flamboyant style they have been called the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of the rink.

Before turning pro and spending much of their time traveling, Mr. Dean was a policeman and Ms. Torvill a secretary. Both are natives of Nottingham, England, and were skating individually by the time they were 10. They first teamed in 1975 after finishing high school, and soon began winning competitions.

But after having already achieved the highest honors, why do they

want to return to the stress of the competitive arena?

"People say, 'You only have everything to lose, what do you have to gain?' But I think it's more of a personal challenge for us," said Mr. Dean, 34.

"In 10 years we've grown a lot, we've learned a lot, and we hope to bring that knowledge back to the Olympics," said Ms. Torvill, 35.

Mr. Dean was actually involved in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, but off the ice. In 1991 he married Canadian Isabelle Duchesnay, and choreographed the silver medal routines that she and her brother, Paul, skated in Albertville.

He pauses when asked about the fairness to amateur skaters of the rules change, which means they now must compete against giants of previous Olympics.

"Well, I understand that point of view. But do they want the best skaters competing or not? That's what the Olympics are about. You could say that about the American basketball team at the Summer Olympics," he replied.

Ms. Torvill, who in 1990 married American Phil Christensen, a sound engineer who tours with rock shows, also noted that the rules now allow amateurs to skate for pay in ice shows.

And both ice dancers said that after 10 years of non-competitive skating and experimenting with choreography, it will take some adjustment and training to adapt their innovative performance styles to the more rigid confines of the rules of competitive ice dancing.

"For the last few years, we've had no limits at all," said Ms. Torvill. In the meantime, the International Skating Union has tightened the requirements of the dance competitions.

The Duchesnays, for example, stirred controversy in Albertville by skating a crowd-pleasing routine that judges apparently downgraded for being too flamboyant and athletic.

Ice dancing contrasts with pairs figure skating by emphasizing flow and continuity of movement. Skaters are not permitted such movements as above-the-shoulder lifts and side-by-side leaps.

"The pairs skaters say if you can't make it as a pairs skater then you go dance," said Ms. Torvill "It's their in-between skating that isn't quite so difficult."

While pairs skaters sometimes seem to be performing a series of gymnastic maneuvers, "in our connecting steps we have to be as interesting and original as possible as we move around the ice," said Mr. Dean.

SKATING EXHIBITION

What:1993 Tour of World Figure Skating Champions.

When:8 tonight.

Where:Baltimore Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St.

Who:U.S. -- Brian Boitano, Nancy Kerrigan, Jill Trenary, Mark Mitchell, Scott Davis, Tai Babilonia & Randy Gardner, Calla Urbanski & Rocky Marval and Jenni Meno & Todd Sand.; Russia -- Natalia Mishkutenok & Arthur Dmitriev, Marina Klimova & Sergei Ponomarenko and Maia Usova & Alexander Zhulin; Ukraine -- Viktor Petrenko and Oksana Baiul (the 14-year-old who just won the World Championship in ladies'singles); Canada -- Isabelle & Paul Duchesnay and Isabelle Brasseur & Lloyd Eisler; Czech Republic -- Peter Barna; Britain -- Christopher Dean and Jayne Torvill.

Tickets: $45 and $30

zTC Call: (410) 481-SEAT for tickets, (410) 347-2010 for information.

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