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Skating champions Torvill and Dean travel to Alaska to fulfil a life-long dream

Torvill and Dean in Dancing on Thin Ice
(Image credit: ITV)

Olympic skating champions Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean travel to Alaska on an extraordinary quest...

Dancing on Ice judges and best friends Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean have always dreamed of skating together on a frozen lake.

So for their new 90-minute film Dancing On Thin Ice with Torvill & Dean, narrated by Stephen Fry, they’re in Alaska on a quest to find the perfect spot to skate the Bolero, the iconic ice dance that won them 1984 Olympic gold.

But as soon as they arrive there’s a problem. Thanks to climate change, the Alaskan lakes simply aren’t freezing, and their search for a patch of solid ice ends up taking them deep into the wilderness, where they climb a glacier, attempt an ice dive and try dog mushing before finally finding somewhere for their magical performance.

Here Jayne, 63, and Chris, 62, reveal how they discovered the true impact of climate change on the Alaskan people and why skating the Bolero in such stunning surroundings was ‘emotional’…

Writer, Hannah Davies, chats to Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean

How long have you dreamed of skating on a frozen lake for?

Chris: "Ever since I walked into the rink in Nottingham for the very first time when I was a child. There was a mural on the ceiling going up the stairs of two skaters with mountains and snow in the background. It looked idyllic, like one of those 1950s posters. But it’s taken 50 years to get out in the wilderness and skate on a natural lake!"

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How did the chance to skate in Alaska come about?

Jayne: "We’re always looking for new challenges and this opportunity came along. We’re lucky at our age that we’re still able to skate and we thought, we’ve got to do this while we’ve still got the chance!"

Chris: "It was a once in a lifetime experience for us, being able to perform in this natural environment. We’ve been in ice rinks all our life and, although we feel like we’re flying, it’s always contained within a building. So here we are, 47 years into our career, being given that opportunity to skate in the wilderness. We just couldn’t pass that up."

Dancing on ice final

Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean from the final of Dancing on Ice in 2019 on ITV (Image credit: ITV)

The documentary took a slightly different turn as you learned about the effects of climate change in Alaska. Tell us about that…

Jayne: "We didn’t expect that it would be so hard to find a frozen lake to skate on. The ice was melting or the lakes weren’t freezing, so we had to go further north. Imagine going all that way to fulfil our dream and then actually performing it on an ice rink in Alaska rather than a lake!"

Chris: "We didn’t know whether we’d be able to do what we were out there to do. We were literally chasing the ice. It made us aware of what’s happening to these beautiful places and to the planet. Ice could be gone forever. We don’t want this show to be all doom and gloom, it’s not. For us it was magical being able to visit Alaska and do something we’d always dreamed of doing, but at the same time it made us aware how things are changing."

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You finally found a frozen lake, so did you skate the same version of your 1984 Bolero?

Jayne: "No, it wasn’t the exact 1984 routine. It was choreographed especially for this – and Chris also decided he wasn’t going to do the splits this time!"

Chris: "The music was also re-orchestrated and really stripped back. We wanted it to be as pure as it could in terms of its sound."

FASHION ON ICE

And what about your outfits?

Chris: "We had to be at least somewhat warm! I think we would have looked silly in sub zero temperatures to wear something thin and ethereal. It wouldn’t have been practical. So we had some sweaters designed, but there’s a nod to our original outfits."

Jayne: "Also the look of the sweater has that 1950s feel like the mural at the Nottingham ice rink."

What was it like to film the routine in the wilderness?

Jayne: "We had a couple of speakers playing the music, but it was a challenge because the sound gets lost if you go far away from it. The whole experience was better than anything we could have imagined, though."

Chris: "Before we started we had to have a safety talk. We had these little ice hooks round our necks because if you go through the ice you have to be able to pull yourself out! But it was fascinating because we’ve always skated on pristine ice that’s man made, but this ice is live, it cracks, it moves and you’ll hear a shatter here and there because it’s so brittle in places. It was emotional to skate on it, actually."

Are you looking forward to the new series of Dancing on Ice?

Chris: "Yeah very much so! I think we’ve got a great cast of celebrities this year, some really good characters and they’re all looking really good at the moment. I think it bodes well!"

Dancing On Thin Ice with Torvill & Dean is on New Year’s Day at 9pm on ITV