Pasha leads a merry dance

HE is Mr Nice on Strictly Come Dancing, the sweet-natured professional who gets the best out of his partners.

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Pasha will be dancing with Katya in Scotland next month
Pasha will be dancing with Katya in Scotland next month

Pasha Kovalev is as patient and as polite in person as he is on the telly.

Just don't ask him about his laundry …

PASHA Kovalev loves performing in Scotland. The Strictly Come Dancing star, who is touring the country with his professional partner Katya Virshilas, is not even fazed by the weather.

"It doesn't matter how cold it is outside, because it is always very hot inside," he says. "Scottish audiences are the biggest, loudest ones in the country."

"Anyway, we are not coming to Motherwell until May, so we hope it will be a little warmer by then."

Pasha and Katya's show, The Best Of Strictly, is a "kaleidoscope of dance" featuring a number of Latin and ballroom routines, guest dancers and children from local dance schools.

"It is great to see such creativity and talent in young people," he says. "We love to have the dance schools as part of the show. And we will continue the tradition of the Q&A ... it's always very popular."

Fielding questions from the audience can be a tricky business, but if anything makes him too hot under the collar, he is adept at wriggling out of it.

"People always want to know about my personal life," he says. "Sometimes it gets a bit much and you just have to get out of it."

The fact that Pasha's most recent Strictly partner, Countdown co-host Rachel Riley, left her husband shortly after the show ended, did nothing to stop the relentless interest in the dancers and their off-screen lives.

But Pasha, who has made it clear he had nothing to do with the break-up, takes it all in his stride.

"I love doing Strictly, and I am so lucky to be able to do what I love," he says.

"Rachel was fantastic - I have never met anyone who wanted to learn so much. And when you see someone have that sparkle in their eyes and realise it is because you are teaching them to dance, it makes it all worthwhile."

Siberian-born Pasha, who has reached the Strictly final twice, with Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh and actress Chelsee Healey, started dancing at the age of eight.

"My mother took me to see a ballroom dance competition and I loved it," he says. "All that was happening on the stage, so many pretty girls. I asked her to sign me up to the local dance studio right away."

Dance was as popular as football in Russian culture, he explains.

"It was never an issue, being a boy and wanting to dance," he says. "And anyway - what is more masculine than dancing? Such power, strength and gallantry - to be able to take care of a lady around a dance floor seems to me to be a very manly thing to do."

He began to compete - with partner Anya Garnis, who caught up with him by joining the Strictly cast last year - and the couple moved to America in 2001.

He is a US National Latin Finalist, made his TV debut in the US in 2007 on So You Think You Can Dance? and moved to London when he joined Strictly in 2011.

"I am a world traveller," he says. "I like to travel, to see different places. I never really meant to appear on television though, it happened by accident.

"I was recovering from an illness and my partner suggested that, as we were not doing much, we should audition for the TV show.

"I went reluctantly, really just to help her out, but one of the producers said if I didn't do it, he wouldn't put my partner through - and that is how it all started."

Pasha gets back home to Russia to see his family when he can, but says: "It's funny, though, because I feel like a tourist in Russia now. I was born there, but I have American citizenship and I live in London.

"With the tour, which is really long, I get to see so much more of the country. We are working, of course, so there is not too much time in each place to explore."

He grins: "And on days off, I have to do boring things like my laundry."

So big Strictly stars do not have people to do that for them? Pasha is momentarily stunned into silence.

"I would not trust anyone else to do my laundry," he says, eventually. "Why would I let someone do my laundry?

"I'm not a big star, anyway. I can take care of myself. And I am a firm believer that if you want something done well, do it yourself...."

l Pasha and Katya appear at Motherwell Concert Hall on May 31 in The Best Of Strictly. For tickets and prices, call 01698 403120 or see: www.whatsonlanarkshire.co.uk

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