Torvill and Dean

The problem was that the silk chiffon only came in a solid colour, not in the shaded ombre effect [they] wanted. So they hung the fabric from a string in their basement, with a bucket of purple dye underneath, and every few hours they would pull it out a little bit more, leaving the bottom darker than the top.


Bolero has been in the news recently. The 30th anniversary of Torvill and Dean’s gold-winning performance at the 1984 Winter Olympics led to their return to Sarajevo to re-enact their routine. The British ice skaters at the Winter Olympics in Sochi have been described as skating in their shadow. Journalists have a feeding frenzy on newly found facts about the birth of the routine such as the way their mentor used a wooden spoon to dye their costumes purple in a bucket in a basement. Or the way they ran outside to the car to get a cassette of Bolero to play when they were choosing the music. I imagine them winding it up with a pencil before playing it.

Nottingham Playhouse, where we will premiere Bolero in May 2014, announced a Mass Bolero, inviting people of Nottingham to dance for a film that will become a public celebration of the city’s most famous Olympians. Nottingham streets are named after them. The first Nottingham tram was called Torvill and Dean. The cafe in the National Ice Centre in Nottingham is called T & D. There are calls for a statue to be erected in Nottingham to commemorate the 30th anniversary. There is already a Bolero sculpture outside the Ice Centre. The Ice Centre’s address is Bolero Square. On entering the Ice Centre you see Torvill and Dean’s Bolero costumes.

However, none of these articles or commemorations or events make mention of the fact that after the Winter Olympics the stadium where Torvill and Dean won gold was bombed and the city that hosted the Olympics in 1984 was besieged from 1992 until 1996. That is where our story starts. It is not the story of Torvill and Dean, although we might reenact the image of a costume being dyed with a wooden spoon in a bucket in a basement. That is a starting point. It is the story of what happened next.

In our Bolero, that basement might become a shelter in Sarajevo as shells fall. That bucket might catch the drips in the foyer of the Olympic Stadium as water falls through the ceiling, as it did when I first visited. That spoon might become the spoon that the tour guide uses to tap out the rhythm of Bolero, as she did when I visited Ravel’s house. That car might become the car in which the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914. That cassette might become an artefact in the Assassination Museum in Sarajevo, covered in dust. That pencil might become a baton a conductor uses to tap on a music stand at the premiere of Bolero in 1928.

The final image of our show will see performers lying on the floor. But they are not emulating the final image of Torvill and Dean’s ice dance routine. They represent the end of the ballet at L’Opera Garnier in Paris in 1928. They represent the 11,132 people who died in the siege of Sarajevo. They represent the millions who died in the First World War triggered by a gunshot in Sarajevo. Just as our story weaves together different strands of history connected to Bolero, so our movements shift and change in time and place. Our community cast perform extracts of the 1928 ballet in 1984 shell suits. The Archduke and Duchess dance to Strauss’ Waltz in 1914 only to become dancers at the opening ceremony of the 1984 Winter Olympics. The flowers on the ice in 1984 become the Sarajevo Roses that remember those who died during the siege. War time pockmarks in the pavement filled with molten red wax.

It is the story of the music. It is a biography of Bolero, the score, the ballet, the ice dance routine. We are following the rhythm of Bolero, note for note, bar by bar, to its inevitable crescendo. We are following it from war to war, before and after 1984.


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