Pasha Kovalev: It’s All About You (Richmond Theatre)

Pasha Kovalev: It’s All About You

Charisma, choreographic chemistry and breathtaking creativity is on the dance card in Strictly Come Dancing favourite Pasha Kovalev’s latest sparkling show.

Yet again the Siberian-born professional dancer is touring the country with more than 70 performances across four months and while exhaustion must surely set in at some point, he and his amazing fellow dancers exude enviable energy.

This fifth major tour is a follow-up to last year’s Life Through Dance with a sub-heading, It’s All About You. According to Pasha it’s a warm thank you to appreciative audiences but the underlying theme is love and the feelings it evokes.

There’s a slight shift in the familiar pattern this year: there’s no funny man Mike Newman compering and providing humorous interludes (though he must be tour manager again as he appears very briefly on stage at one point) and there are no young performers from a local dance school, which always ensured good audience numbers.

Now it’s just Pasha and his gorgeous and formidable partner Anya Garnis to wow the audiences alongside the terrific and able James Wilson, Marcella Solimeo, Robert Rowinski and Victoria Burke, as well as the tremendous Ricky Rojas, providing musical numbers.

It’s a mixed bag of quality entertainment: it’s not strictly Strictly, neither is it strictly ballroom, as there are some original and often very exciting interpretations and twists on the traditional, which are both neatly and cleverly executed.  There are some especially breathtaking tweaks to Foxtrot, Tango, Rumba, and Paso, which may occasionally wrong foot the audience, but the dancing is passionate and dramatic.

It is undoubtedly Pasha’s show. He has superb confidence and ability as a dancer, but is not out of his depth when engaging warmly with the audience – the three ladies who came onto the stage to dance with him were clearly thrilled.

His partnership with Anya is a masterpiece of fluidity, harmony and apparently effortless craftsmanship. The dreamy American Smooth to When I Fall in Love is sheer perfection and the moves in some of the numbers – including a stunning lift in one of the Rumba style pieces – is a total delight.

The other dancers certainly have their moment in the spotlight too, all being allowed to let their personalities shine through. The atmospheric take on the Paso is electrifying, and the Charleston and Cha Chas rip-roaring, though the Jive to You’re the One That I Want is a slight disappointment, never quite capturing the energy of the song or dance.

Ricky Rojas has a fantastic voice and it’s a shame there are no opportunities for him to accompany the dancers as happens in the main Strictly competition, rather than largely performing independently.

There are the usual filler film segments, though it’s a nice touch to have Carol Kirkwood (the BBC weather presenter who partnered Pasha in the 2015 Strictly series) topping and tailing the show even on a big screen.

Fans and the curious alike cannot fail to be enchanted by Pasha and his slick team wherever they appear in this simply staged but enjoyable and professional show, which sent an appreciative audience out onto the Richmond streets with toes tapping and smiling faces.  

David Guest