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.”
While due to some fur baby trouble (Diva dog is on the mend!) are are a little bit behind in announcing but not in video Let’s say a big Simply Pasha CAN’T WAIT for Caroline and Pasha together on the dance floor.
Exciting Announcement – I will be touring The UK from March next year in
PASHA KOVALEV’ LIFE THROUGH DANCE’
The full Tour Schedule will be announced very soon!
“In this amazing new show starring Pasha and his sensational dancers, the audience will be transported into the world of Ballroom and Latin Dance with all it’s glitter and sequence.
‘Life Through Dance’ is a non-stop action and sparkles packed journey through life and love, expressed by the language of dance. The production will feature breathtaking choreography, sensational music and amazing costumes.
It will be a fun and exciting adventure for the entire family during which there will even be the opportunity to participate and experience ‘live on stage’ the favourite dance styles as seen on TV, leaving the audience supercharged with positive energy and emotion!
I hope to see you all around the UK – thanks again for all your support
Dazzling dance duo Pasha Kovalev and Katya Virshilas are touring the UK with a new Strictly-style show. Rosanna Rothery grabbed a few words with Pasha ahead of their Exeter date.
I’M discussing the latest Strictly gossip with Pasha Kovalev. The Russian professional dancer is aware recent decisions about the hit TV dance show might prove a little controversial with the public.
Claudia Winkleman, it was announced recently, is to replace entertainment legend Sir Bruce Forsyth to co-host with Tess Daly in the next series of Strictly Come Dancing.
“Claudia is no stranger to Strictly and she has presented a few shows with Tess already. Some people like it, some people don’t,” he says.
In his current touring dance show, Stars From Strictly, in which he dances with sizzling beauty Katya Virshilas, they always have a Q&A session where people can fire off questions about dance and Strictly.
Audience members also like to give their forthright views about the TV show: “A lot of people like the idea of the two women presenting while some people want to see a gentleman co-hosting with Tess.”
He admits the name of fellow professional dancer, the cheeky chappie charmer Anton Du Beke, gets bandied about a lot.
“The audience would really like to see him in place of Brucie. We will see. The decision has been made. I know Tess and Claudia worked well together and I am sure it will be a great series but it will be interesting to see how it all works out.”
Pasha has twice made it to the Strictly final – with both Kimberley Walsh and Chelsee Healey – but he is yet to get his hands on the glitter ball.
“It is a competition, we are professionals and we want to hold on to that beautiful glitter ball but, at the end of the day, it’s also a TV show. You don’t know who you are going to get and you don’t have any control over the abilities of your celebrity.
“You can only do the best you can with that person.”
The show, he concedes, is really all about bonding with the celebrity. “It’s also all about them bonding with themselves and discovering their dance ability.
“I think that is the main focus of all the professional dancers rather than: ‘I want to win that glitter ball’.”
Pasha himself started dancing when he was 8, the first dancer in his family.
“It all started when my mum took me to a few dance competitions and I saw what was happening on stage and I was mesmerised by the pretty girls. I just said: ‘Mum take me to a dance studio. I want to dance, wink wink’. Meaning, I wanted to meet up with all those girls.”
While more boys these days are taking up dance, he still feels it’s not always viewed as the most manly of professions.
“But that’s just an outsider’s view. I think all women prefer for a man to know how to dance.
“Being able to lead the girl and make the girl look great and comfortable on the dance floor, I think is a very manly quality and skill.”
He also thinks dance is a fantastic hobby for boys.
“It’s quite physical. You are building your body, your posture, your communication, your dance ability and the ability to dance with a girl.
“There are so many aspects. You are learning about music, the history of dance, costume and art. A lot of people think that dancing isn’t that good for young boys and it’s for girls. Yet I totally disagree.
“Fortunately, programmes like Strictly are introducing dance into popular culture. It’s actually a sport not just an art form.”
Apparently, Pasha’s and Katya’s show has got all the elements of Strictly: great music, fantastic dancing, amazing costumes, although it’s a lot more intimate and interactive.
“We make our show a little bit more cosy and family orientated and we love to include our audience in what’s going on on-stage.
“We have a little Q&A session where people can ask anything they want to know about Strictly or about Katya and myself.”
There’s also a section where three women are invited on to the stage to experience a bit of Strictly for themselves.
“This usually goes very well and the audience really enjoy that part of the show,” he says.
So do they get to dance with him?
“I don’t want to reveal it but maybe! It’s always fun and everyone loves that kind of interaction on stage.”
The show, which also features four guest dancers, includes dances like the fiery cha cha, the romantic waltz, the passionate rumba and the dramatic pas0 doble, plus more.
“If people like dancing, like Strictly, this is an experience they won’t get anywhere else. Between music, dancing, interaction and comedy, it’s hard to find anyone who would say they didn’t like at least a part of the show. It’s for the whole family and it’s friendly, refreshing and energising.” SOURCE
IT TAKES TWO to Tango and Strictly Come Dancing’s Katya and Pasha have got all the moves.
An Evening With the Stars of Strictly Come Dancing will be waltzing its way to the Music Hall to perform on Sunday.
Bringing a night of moving and shaking with it, dancer Katya Virshilas is looking forward to performing in Aberdeen.
“I’m so excited about going up to Scotland. Northern audiences are great, the further North you go they’re louder and noisier and everyone has a good time,” she said.
“When the crowd responds like that it gives you real energy, I just love it.”
Katya, who captured British attention with her stunning performances on Strictly Come Dancing, will be joined on the tour by her companion from the show Pasha Kovalev.
Heading out on the road with Pasha for the third year in a row Katya insists that having a close working and personal relationship is essential to the pair.
“Pasha has been great, him and I have such a great friendship and bond. It’s the third time we’re working together,” said Katya.
“It’s a very close-knit relationship when you’re around someone so much. We have a yin-yang relationship, we are close and we rely on each other.”
With a variety of dance styles on display, as well as a question and answer session, the audience will get a chance to get up close and personal with the stars.
A few lucky audience members will also be invited to join in with the cast so it’s always best to bring your dancing shoes just in case.
“There’s great dance, great music and huge array of costumes and colours. The audience can expect to laugh, to cry and to let out a little dance as well,” Katya said.
“All the dances we do are amazing, there’s a great Argentine Tango that I dance with three boys, it’s a special number. Some audience members will get the chance to dance with Pasha too, It’s a going to be a great night, it’s the full entertainment package.”
Each autumn, when Strictly Come Dancing comes on to our screens, audiences at home settle into two camps: those who think the most technically skilled celebrity dancers should win, and those who believe the most-improved celebs should triumph.
Last year, when model and TV presenter Abbey Clancy took the trophy, many viewers grumbled that it should have gone to the technically superior Natalie Gumede, of Coronation Street fame. In previous years, the least-skilled dancers – Anne Widdecombe and John Sergeant, to name but two – were kept in the running for weeks by the audience vote alone. While the latter may have something to do with morbid curiosity for what wacky dance John or Anne might have done next, the argument comes up time and again: what matters more, the skill or the story?
For Pasha Kovalev, who has danced professionally on the show for the past three years, this dichotomy is by no means specific to Strictly.
“In competitive dancing, it’s not like in gymnastics or figure skating, where judges score just on how technically well someone moved. Here, it’s totally subjective,” said Pasha.
“People might like your look, the routine, the character of your dance, choreography or technique – there are so many aspects that create the final score. So you can’t just say ‘he or she is technically better than everyone else’.”
In fact, said the 34-year-old Siberian dancer, the equal weighting of skill and story is what makes Strictly so loved, even after 11 seasons. This innate feeling of positivity which runs throughout the feel-good show seems to make it different from the more competitively hard-nosed Saturday night televisual fare, such as X Factor, where every iota of personal anguish is eked out by TV producers for dramatic effect.
“You also see the process of the celebrities becoming better,” Pasha continued.
“Most of the time, they start from nothing and they improve their dance skills, which I think gives the audiences at home the feeling that they can get off their couches and do the same thing. So it’s this positivity and beauty which makes this a good show.”
Looking ahead to this autumn, plans for series 12 are still in the works: the only fact known for sure is that Sir Bruce Forsyth won’t be returning to present. Even Pasha, who has become a firm favourite on the professional line-up, doesn’t know if he’ll be back. Not that he’s had a moment to think about it: he and dance partner Katya Virshilas are too busy with their current live dance-show tour, the informatively titled An Evening With Stars From Strictly Come Dancing.
Through a combination of great choreography – some routines from the TV show, some brand new – music and audience participation, Pasha and Katya aim to take those same vibes of positivity and fun created by the small screen and transpose them directly on to the stage.
Like “a celebration of Strictly but more intimate”, as Pasha explained.
The touring production is now in its third year but, in a new twist, audience members are invited to text their questions to the dancers, who will answer them live on stage. As you would expect, the questions thrown out by more rowdy audiences can be both weird and wonderful.
“We get a real variety of questions, starting from ‘What kind of underwear are you wearing?’ to ‘Will you marry me?’” Pasha said, laughing.
“We don’t know what’s going to come up, but that’s why we are using texts this time, because people come up with more crazy stuff when they can be anonymous.”
Such wildcard elements of Pasha’s dance career have always been welcome, he said.
Since leaving his native Siberia, he has allowed himself to move wherever opportunity has come knocking. This approach has taken him all over, from Moscow to New York, LA and now the UK.
“If you asked me, 20 years ago, if I thought I would live in another country, or dance on Broadway, on TV or in my own show, I would have had no clue it was possible. So I really take life as it comes,” he said.
But what if he could take a bit more control of his fate, I asked? In terms of celeb partners on the TV show, he has been paired with Chelsee Healey, Kimberley Walsh and Rachel Riley, and has been runner-up twice.
But if he could choose, who would he like to be paired up with next?
“My ideal partner? That’s a good question. I don’t think such a thing exists,” he chuckled, noting that the most-skilled dancers don’t always win.
“For me, the ideal celebrity partner is someone who is ready to work, not afraid of the long hours of training, who has the enthusiasm for dancing. Those are the most important things.”
Sounds like the ideal combination: a bit of skill and a bit of story.