The year was 1977 when white suits, mirror balls adorned the discotheques. Lines wrapped around the block, as anxious faces waited to be admitted. The doors to the night club would swing open and in waltzed the three brothers. Eddie, Michael, and Roberto, the Pagan's had arrived.
He grew up in Long Island, Suffolk county, and from a very early age, Roberto knew dancing was his destiny. Social dancing was commonplace at the Pagan household, as his parents loved to salsa and merengue. Roberto started lessons at 17 years old as he pursued his interest in Flamenco. As a child, he observed the Flamenco performed on television and he instantaneously had that burning desire to learn. But things took a quick pivot when Roberto saw his older brother Michael starting to do the Hustle. "I initially learned from my brother Michael", shares Roberto. Determined to excel, Roberto would practice the hustle and quickly honed his craft. Along the way, he would see other fabulous dancers that inspired him. Eddie Vega and Artie Phillips were two standouts that he admired. "Eddie Vega really turned me on, he was one of the best", recalls Roberto.
Team Pagan began to run competitions and host dance performances. The three brothers were on a mission. Together they pooled their talents and business acumen to open their own dance studio in Long Island. This gave birth to the very first "NY Express" Dance Studio. The boys became very popular and very recognizable in the Long Island dance scene. It was there at the popular discotheque "2001" that Roberto would meet his future wife and dance partner. Donna Marie was quite talented and their chemistry clicked. Donna Marie and Roberto became romantically attached and she would later join the staff at NY Express. The couple created a dance routine and became active in competing and doing exhibitions. Together they would win hustle contests all over the NY area including clubs like Zacharys, McCarthers, and Faces. As the studio grew, Roberto would grow his knowledge studying under the best in the ballroom world. He pursued national champions including world champions John & Kathy Nemcheck, Rufus Dustin, and Corky & Shirley Ballas. When questioned about his greatest inspiration in dance he is quick to respond, "Rufus Dustin, he was my idol. Forget about it, he was the best to watch".
Roberto was becoming a dancing juggernaut, winning contests everywhere.
After a brief closure, NY Express dance studio reemerged with an amazing group of talented teachers including Michael Pagan, Donna DeSimone, Nathan (Ballroom instructor), and Donna Marie Portelli. All along Roberto and Donna Marie would continue to teach and travel, competing in hustle and American Latin style. They took the next step and were married. Together they would compete on Dance Fever, Soul Alive, and other area shows, but his greatest memories were performing shows all over the country and traveling with NY Express. The popular dance troop would welcome a new member. A young dancer with a winning history in American Rhythm and Theater Arts. Lori Ann Greenhouse brought new excitement to the troop. The dance journey would take a new direction as Roberto started partnering with Lori Ann. The titles would amass as they competed in all the ballroom and hustle events globally. When you watched them perform something amazing happens. There is no denying how talented this couple was. After placing 3rd in the country, the USBC committee invited Lori Ann and Roberto to attend the prestigious Blackpool competition. "Wearing the USA jackets, representing our country in Blackpool, England was amazing" explains Roberto. The couple was on top of the world.
Together they purchased Progressive Dance Studio, located in Nutley, New Jersey. A very large and beautiful Ballroom. They were committed to hosting dance socials, lessons, and competitions. With time, changes would occur, the Progressive Dance studio had run its course for 7 years but it was time to move on as they sold the ballroom to Katrina Marks, (now known as Starlight Dance Center.)
As the journey continued Roberto would experience multiple championships with different professional partners, a true credit to his talent and determination to keep coming back and rising to the top.
Over the years he won the US Rising Star Theater Arts championships, Three-time World Hustle Championships (2009, 2011, 2012), two years Canadian Theater arts Champion, Top Cabaret Couple of the year......over 2 hundred titles in five professional divisions. He was inducted into the Hustle Hall Of Fame in 2011. Preparation is always on the top of his mind. "I studied so many different styles (of dance), I brought international along with street style to my dance", explains Roberto. "I would daydream envisioning new choreography". His determination to learn has never ceased. The more dance styles Roberto studied the more the creative ideas would flow. This lead to more original choreography for his own routines along with routines for students. He also acknowledges that since he started he has always been committed to meditation. "I mediate before competitions, this helps me plan how I'm going to enter the dance floor, I find it very important to prepare myself", shared Roberto.
Today he continues to teach, operate his own studio, host socials, compete and continue to model the way for so many others. Along with his partner Satomi Montague, they have developed a social dancing platform to help keep dancing active in the NJ/NY area. With everything on pause now with the pandemic, look for Roberto to come back stronger than ever in 2021. Along with Satomi, they have already created two new dance routines (hustle & Salsa). After a ten-year health battle, he is feeling reinvigorated and excited to compete and perform again. Not that he has anything to prove however Roberto is still today as passionate about dancing as he was since the very first time he walked into 2001 discotheque. He's Staying Alive.
Pictures to be posted in the future Here