PASHA Kovalev will be well known to fans of TV’s top-rated dance show Strictly Come Dancing but he is about to show a whole new side to his talents.

For Pasha is starring in La Bamba, a new musical, which comes to The Lowry at Salford Quays later this month and then Blackpool Grand Theatre in November as part of a major UK tour.

“It is a great opportunity for me to tell a new story and to reveal a new side to myself,” said Pasha, who was one of the most popular professional dancers on Strictly.

Bury Times: Pasha Kovalev

He competed in eight series of Strictly, winning the coveted Glitter Ball Trophy with celebrity partner Caroline Flack and finishing runner-up twice including on his last time with the show in 2018 with former Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts.

“In an age where a lot of things are being re-done, it is so refreshing to have a production that has completely new content,” said Pasha of La Bamba. “We are creating something that the world has never seen before.”

La Bamba is set to a pulsating soundtrack of Latin rhythms and follows the story of 17-year-old Sophia (played by Inês Fernandez) who has music in her blood.

The show also stars Siva Kaneswaran from the group The Wanted.

Bury Times: Inês Fernandez and Siva Kaneswaran in La Bamba  
                                                                            (Picture: Twisty)

Pasha plays Riccardo, Sophia’s father.

“By the time we meet him he’s already gone to a better world,” said Pasha. “He has passed away but appears to Sophia as as a memory or as a guiding spirit to his old daughter trying to support her and reassure her that she’s on the right path and doing everything she can to be the best person she can be.

“I’m not only dancing but acting a little bit as well which is new to me. I have never been part of a musical before.”

So does that mean audiences can look forward to Pasha singing the odd song?

“I’m definitely not a singer,” he laughed. “So no, that’s never been my thing. I’m OK with not singing in the show.”

The Latin soundtrack to the show which ranges from traditional folk songs to pop hits is an integral part of La Bamba.

“Latin music in general gets people going,” said Pasha. “When you hear an upbeat song your body automatically wants to jump into some kind of action. It could be something as simple as nodding your head or tapping your foot but Latin music has this magic power to get your body into that state where you think ‘OK just give me a partner and I’ll jump on the dancefloor and I’ll be the best dancer I can be’.

“On the other hand in Latin music there are pieces – and we have few in the show – that make you think, help you reflect, that are a little bit slower, maybe are more romantic or more sad.

“Latin is so versatile. The one thing you want through any of the musical pieces we do, you want it to touch people’s hearts. You want that authentic reaction.”

There is a strong Strictly connection on La Bamba for as well as Pasha starring in the show, it has also been choreographed by fellow Strictly pro Graziano Di Prima.

“Graziano is a good friend of mine and a very nice person,” said Pasha. “With this show he is also revealing himself to be a very talented choreographer. Undertaking this kind of project could be overwhelming but he has worked really hard to deliver best possible choreography to reflect the director and writer’s vision and the feel of the music.

“I appreciate the room he has given us and that he has developed steps which best showcase who we are and what we can do.”

Bury Times: Pasha Kovalev starring in La Bamba 
                                     (Picture: Twisty)

La Bamba is a major undertaking and Pasha will be on the road until the end of November, keeping him away from his two young daughters and wife Rachel Riley. The couple met on Strictly in 2013 and married in 2019.

“When you don’t have a family touring is just something you do without really thinking about it,” he said. “But once you have kids you do start to re-evaluate things.

“I’m definitely not looking forward to being away from my girls for too long but that’s why you design a tour as much as you can around being able to come back home whenever possible; it’s a balancing game.”

Pasha’s devotion to his family is easy to see - and one small anecdote reveals the way he thinks about them.

“Rachel said we’d got an invite to go to the men’s final at Wimbledon this year,” he said. “That sounds fantastic but it was the only day off I had during rehearsals. I just said I’d rather go and play with the girls, spend time with you and have some family time together.

“Given the choice between one of the most amazing tennis events in the world or spending time with my kids, it wasn’t that hard to choose.”

Bury Times: Pasha Kovalev in rehearsal for La Bamba (Picture: Daniel Gardiner)

Having been part of Strictly, Pasha has been able to witness the dramatic impact the show has had on people.

“There is no doubt Strictly has done wonders for the world of dance,” he said. “It showed people that complete beginners could, with tuition, learn to dance and hope it has encouraged people to give things a try and believe i themselves.

“But when two professionals take to the stage and do a performance they have been preparing their whole lives for, that will blow you away. With La Bamba I know that there are some numbers which will take people’s breath away. There are those showstopper moments.”

La Bamba is at The Lowry, Salford Quays from Thursday, August 17 to Saturday, August 19 (details and Blackpool Grand Theatre from Tuesday, November 21 to Saturday, November 25 (details from