Published: 31/05/2014 13:04 - Updated: 30/05/2014 13:19

Dancing is Pasha's passion

Pasha and Katya.
Pasha and Katya.

STARS of Strictly Come Dancing Pasha Kovalev and Katya Virshilas may hark back to the golden age of Hollywood glamour with their latest touring show, but it is a glamour that by-passed Siberian born Kovalev growing up in the Soviet Union.

"When I started dancing, I didn’t have any access to western dance culture," he said.

"I didn’t have a chance to watch movies with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. When I was growing up, ballet stars and people you saw on Russian television were more my idols, but at the same time ballroom dancing is different from everything else, so we had our own idols."

Now based in the United States where he is a regular on hit reality show So You Think You Can Dance?, Kovalev joined the team on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2011, making it all the way to the runner-up spot with his celebrity partner, Waterloo Road actress Chelsee Healey. He repeated that feat in 2012 with Girl’s Aloud star Kimberley Walsh. Most recently he was paired with Countdown’s Rachel Riley.

His touring partner Virshilas was also born in the former Soviet Union, in Lithuania, but moved with her family to Israel at the age of six and from there to Canada where she began her professional dance career.

As a professional dancer on Strictly, she has been partnered with sportsmen Phil Tuffnel, Gavin Henson and Dan Lobb, but has also danced with Spanish movie star Antonio Banderas in the film Take The Lead.

Next week, instead of dancing with or for the stars, the glamorous couple will be dancing for audiences in the Highlands.

"It’s always a pleasure to go up north and perform there," Kovalev said.

"It’s our third tour and our second time in your area. This time we have re-invented our show and brought all new music, dances and choreography and costumes, so people who saw it last time won’t be bored."

In the same way that Strictly has a different theme each week, Kovalev and Virshilas have decided to have a new theme for each dance — their way of re-creating the carnival of Strictly Come Dancing, but with a lot more audience participation.

As well as inviting local dance schools to take part in every town they visit on the tour, audience members can also get up on stage to demonstrate their own dancing skills, or just ask Kovalev and Virshilas about their dancing careers and time on Strictly.

"We do the choreography ourselves, we choose the music and work out all the details and storylines, so it becomes an extension of you, so it’s really hard to pick favourite dances," Kovalev said.

Kovalev’s profile on television on both sides of the Atlantic has made the handsome Russian something of a celebrity himself and he recently published his autobiography, tracing his journey from boyhood in Siberia to stardom in the States and UK.

"When you are writing about yourself, you are re-visiting places and revaluating your life from a different perspective. I’m glad I did it. At that point it was exactly what I needed — not the book itself, but going back into my past and seeing where I came from and where I‘m going to next," he said.

Strictly will return, although not with Bruce Forsyth, but it is usually not until late June that the dancers learn if they will be back for the new season.

"I would love to do it again," Kovalev said.

"I don’t think there is a better programme on TV for dancers to showcase their ability and promote dance in general."

• Strictly Come Dancing Stars Pasha and Kayta will be at Aberdeen Music Hall on Sunday and at Eden Court Theatre on Monday 2nd June.

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