In 1994 the Winter Olympics were in Lillehammer, Norway. An interesting story unfolded in the ice dancing competition. Changes in eligibility rules resulted in the Olympic return of the British pair Torvill and Dean.
Torvill (Jayne) and Dean (Christopher) had been skating together for 14 years or more. They had won essentially every competition they entered over that time, but in 1994 they were quite old for Olympic contestants – both in their late 30s. Not Dara Torres old, but old nonetheless. And of course they were up against fabulous skaters from the Soviet Union such as Oksana Grishuk and Evgeny Platov, exceptional athletes who were younger by a decade or more.
Here is what I remember:
The announcers explained that ice dancing pairs frequently perform a love story with their routines.
Sure enough, the younger performers skated out and essentially pawed over each other and gyrated their hips and so forth, all performed to saucy hot-tempo music. Clearly intended to be sexy, but frankly it all came off as juvenile.
Torvill and Dean skated out last. Their routine was quite different.
It was much slower. Less overt. Infinitely more elegant.
Simmering instead of boiling.
And it was drop-dead sexy. When they finished, the audience in the building went absolutely bananas.
Now what reminded me of this? It was NOT in fact the pending Vancouver Olympics and its attendant onslaught of advertising hype.
No, I am reminded of Torvill and Dean by listening to this latest Norah Jones album. The music is simply written, the instruments very understated, but the combination of her voice and the words and the keys is just brilliant at creating moods – langorous and melancholy. 90% of what’s on the radio only has the most un-nuanced versions of those same moods – horny and depressed.
However technically proficient or catchy that music might be, you realize how juvenile it is after Norah skates onto the ice.