This is bt Natasha Devon SOURCE
Last year I was approached by a publisher, who asked if I’d consider co-authoring the autobiography of Strictly Come Dancing’s Pasha Kovalev. I agreed to a meeting, mainly because they told me that Pasha spent his childhood in Siberia during the last vestiges of the Communist regime and, having Russian ancestry myself, I wanted to know what that would have been like.
Having only watched Strictly sporadically at that point, I knew only that the programme had something to do with celebrities, sequins and live studio audiences clapping in time to music. I had imagined Pasha might enter my flat with a melodramatic swoosh, cha-cha-cha-ing round the gaff with his extensive entourage whilst demanding I furnish him with six fluffy kittens dipped in glitter.
As it turned out, he was (and remains to this day) the least “celebby” celeb I have ever encountered. He caught the Tube to visit me, armed with two bottles of cloudy apple juice (having learned that is my favourite drink) and removed his shoes at the door. His manners are impeccable.
Having exchanged pleasantries and established that we were comfortable in each other’s company, he flopped into one of my armchairs and told me in his distinctive Russian-mixed-with-transatlantic lilt that he was very tired. He’d spent the day lifting a partially incapacitated Miranda Hart (she was on crutches following a knee injury) for “that thing you have in Britain where you put on plastic noses for fun” (Comic Relief).
And that was when I realised we’d always be friends. Over the next three months, as we wove together his life story, it would be remiss of me to suggest that I did not completely fall in love with Pasha. Not in a way that should unduly concern my boyfriend, you understand. More in the way one does when one is in the presence of someone truly authentic, interesting and therefore inspiring. On more than one occasion I found myself actually gazing at him, the way black-and-white film characters do when they’re experiencing a mixture of lust and whimsy.
As a star of one of the campest productions on prime-time television, whose name is most often Googled alongside the word “gay” followed by a question mark, Pasha might seem like an unlikely heartthrob. Yet shadowing him as he toured the country with off-screen dance partner Katya Virshilas, it soon became apparent that I was far from the only woman to have a radar for his unique charm. Female audience members scream and swoon whenever he appears on stage, in a way you’d traditionally associate with male strippers, or at the very least Tom Jones. The boot of his car is rammed with gifts from female admirers.
Pasha showed me a completely different and thoroughly refreshing brand of masculinity. He is the soul of an old-fashioned gent housed in the body of a man who isn’t afraid to wear stage garb comprising of bold-hued shirts slashed to the navel and lashings of eyeliner.
Here are five things Pasha taught me about his way of being a man (and human):
1. Strength isn’t necessarily denoted by massive muscles.
Considering they do such a good job of making it look like fun, you’d be surprised how hardcore professional ballroom training is. When touring, Pasha trains for an average of ten hours per day. TEN. HOURS. PER. DAY. Not only that, he’s shimmied and shaken his way through the sorts of injuries that made my eyes water just hearing about them without so much as a tell-tale grimace.
Pasha might appear slight-of-build to the naked eye, but he’s comprised entirely of impressively disproportionate core-strength. This means he can lift women in the air (of pretty-much any size, as demonstrated by the time I asked if he could lift almost six foot of me) in the way Patrick Swayze lifts Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing. And if the movie ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ taught us anything, it’s that chicks REALLY dig that.
2. Showing emotion is desirable.
A big part of Pasha’s appeal is the way he balances strength and sensitivity. Dances convey a story, most often one centring around romance. It would be impossible to communicate those feelings through movement unless you were in touch with them. Don’t misunderstand, he doesn’t start wailing and gnashing his teeth if someone forgets to add an extra shot to his latte. He is simply a connoisseur of human behaviour. Which is, needless to say, very sexy.
3. Real men are secure enough to let women take the spotlight sometimes.
In ballroom, the female partner is the painting and the male partner is the frame. Our eyes are drawn to the female because she is often twirling about copiously, feathers flying in every direction to reveal a beguiling glimpse of pant. Yet when you see Pasha pluck a random girl from the audience during his live tour and proceed to guide her in a way that makes her look AWESOME (even though in reality she’s invariably doing the two-step slightly drunkenly like an elderly aunt at a wedding) you realise that his job is to use his talent to showcase his partners’ talent. And he is cool with that.
4. It’s all in the details.
Everyone who knows Pasha gushes about his propensity for remembering names and details about people and using this information to propagate thoughtful niceties (the arriving-bearing-apple-juice incident being just one example). When Kimberley Walsh, Pasha’s celebrity dance partner during his second series as part of the cast of Strictly (and arguably one of the sexiest women in Britain) was preparing the foreword for his book, she told me it was one of the things she appreciated most about him.
5. Be yourself (even when that involves contradicting yourself).
Pasha is paradoxical in many ways. He decided he wanted to be a dancer aged seven, because he saw a ballroom show at his local arts centre and noticed that there were lots of pretty girls in skimpy costumes. Despite this, I’ve never known him be remotely sleazy or disrespectful. He’s pursued his ambition to dance professionally with a dogged, steely determination, yet his central philosophy is a dedication to flexibility in the face of obstacles and a laid-back, instinct-led approach to decision-making. He’s really Russian, really American and a little bit British all at the same time. He’s a compassionate soul yet completely allergic to being told what do to.
In short, he isn’t afraid to be himself.
I’ll leave the final thought to the man himself, in words lifted from his book:
“I look at the way being a man is defined in today’s society and it seems to me so superficial and showy. Men think that they need to go to the gym, build these huge muscles and scream about how macho they are in order to be considered a man but that doesn’t prove anything at all.”