Their skating – and constant rumours that they were more than colleagues – have kept them in and out of the public eye in the decades since then. Most recently, they have had a regular slot on ITV’s Dancing on Ice, which they have worked on as coaches since 2006.
They call into our Zoom call from their dressing room for the show, where they are between rehearsals. Torvill, 63, has her hair in a neat dancers’ bun, and is wearing sleek white gym wear; Dean is dressed in black and is still very blond. The pair have an evidently comfortable rapport: Dean naturally takes the lead in conversation but always pauses to make sure Torvill is heard, too.
Both are here to talk about Dancing on Thin Ice, which sees them travel to Alaska to see how humans are causing the destruction of frozen habitats. Even in one of the coldest places on Earth, they struggle to find good enough ice to skate on.
The pair say that the issue never concerned them much when they were younger, but having a family has changed their outlook. “[Our children] are going to have to deal with the worst of it, and then their children beyond that”, says Torvill, who shares teenage children Kieran and Jessica with her husband of 30 years Phil Christensen, an American sound engineer.
Dean agrees, but says that climate change is already affecting his children’s lives now. After the devastating storm of two years ago, the home of his sons Jack, 22, and Sam, 20, was hit again this year. He shares the boys with ex Jill Trenary, his second wife who he married in 1994 and separated from in 2010. Since 2011, he has been in a relationship with Karen Barber, a fellow coach on Dancing on Ice, and lives just minutes from Trenary and their sons in Colorado.
Torvill and Dean say that making the show has made them even more aware of the effect they are having on the environment. Carbon emissions from the documentary itself were kept as low as possible by maintaining a small crew small, hiring local staff and offsetting their emissions.
They try to help in their personal lives, too. Torvill says she keeps the heating down at home, and shops at the greengrocer so she can go without packaging. She eats meat only a few times a week and avoids red meat entirely, although hasn’t gone fully vegan like her husband. Dean has a similar approach: he “eats less meat than I used to”, and says the next car he’ll buy will be electric.
The pair reflect on how the other global catastrophe – Covid – has changed their lives too. At the time of our interview in mid-December, they were bubbled up to be able to pre-record their dances for Dancing on Ice, which begins in mid-January. Their bubble broke over Christmas as they went home, so when the live show begins in a few weeks, they will be required to keep two metres apart at all times.
Dean says everyone on the show has been eagerly watching how Strictly Come Dancing dealt with Covid, which had one couple dropping out after a positive test, judges giving their verdict by video call and presenters swapping around after being tracked and traced and needing to isolate. “They were somewhat guinea pigs”, he says.