Our Instructors

Katusha Demidova – Owner

Katusha Demidova is the most titled ballroom dancer in United States history. With her previous partner Jonathan Wilkins she was 12 times United States National Professional Ballroom Champion and World Ballroom Show Dance Champion. Her current partner is Arunas Bizokas, and together they have won every major Championship in the world. Among their titles are: 2 times World Professional Ballroom Champions, 3 times British Open (Blackpool) Professional Ballroom Champions, and 3 times United States National Professional Ballroom Champions. They have been guest performers on Dancing With The Stars and featured performers on the popular PBS television show “Championship Ballroom Dancing.” Katusha resides in New Jersey and is very excited to be the owner of Rogers Dance Center Hackensack, and add another chapter to her already successful career.

Gary McDonald – Studio Director

Gary McDonald is a former World Professional 10-Dance Champion (The first American ever to win a World Title), 10 times United States Professional Ten Dance Champion, United States Professional Latin Champion, United States Professional Ballroom Showdance Champion, United States Professional Latin Showdance Champion and representative of the United States in a record 24 World Championships. His movie credits include playing the role of Jennifer Lopez’s dance partner in the movie Shall We Dance. Gary was also the Head Dance Trainer for the film and personally trained Jennifer Lopez, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci. He has also co-hosted Dancesport Television shows on NBC and A & E with Suzanne Sommers, Debbie Allen and Marilu Henner and was a featured dancer for Disney’s Oscar Nominated “Enchanted” on the 2008 Academy Awards. Along with his dance partner Diana, Gary owns and operates the Rogers Dance Center in Fairfield, New Jersey and is very proud to add the operation of Rogers Dance Center Hackensack, as part of his busy dancing life.

Pamela Licht – Assistant Manager and Instructor

Pamela has been an instructor at Rogers Dance Center in Fairfield for almost 11 years. Her training in the studio began at the age of nine. Having also trained in other dance forms, she was an original member of the New Jersey Tap Ensemble and received a BFA in Dance from Montclair State University. Pamela’s competitive training has been in both the International and American Styles. She was a 2001 World Mambo Finalist and ranked 4th in the 2004 United States Professional American 9-Dance division. With former partner, Azamat Evgamukov, Pamela has won several Rising Star competitions including the Manhattan Dancesport Championship, the Holiday Dance Classic, and La Classique De Quebec in Montreal. In 2008, they were United States Professional Rising Star American Rhythm Finalists as well as silver medalists in the 2008 World Professional Salsa Championship held in Puerto Rico. During the 2010 Competitive Season, Pamela with former partner David Hannigan, won several Rising Star American Smooth Events. Along with her competitive accomplishments, Pamela has also taken her judging exams in the Theater Arts, American Smooth, International Latin and International Ballroom styles passing highly commended through the United States Terpsichore Association. She is also currently an adjunct professor at Montclair State University teaching their 245-Dance Class on World Dance: Latin Dancing section and PEGN-271 Social Dance Class.

Mario Battista – Instructor

Mario began his dance career at the age of 14 partnering with his sister Elena. By 1991, they were United States Amateur 10 Dance Champions. During a successful professional career, Mario and Elena traveled to all corners of the world eventually rising to become the 3rd ranked 10 Dance couple in the United States. From 1993-2010, they founded Battista Dance Studio (currently Rogers Dance Center), and has become one of the largest and most successful studios in the country. Well known throughout the U.S. as a judge and a coach for couples of all levels, Mario is available for coaching and teaches select group classes on an ongoing basis.

Elena (Battista) Wertheimer – Instructor

Elena began ballroom dancing at the age of ten, partnering with her brother Mario. They competed together as amateurs and achieved the title of US Amateur Ten-Dance Champions. As US Champions, they represented the United States worldwide for both 10 Dance and Latin Championships. Mario & Elena were ranked 3rd in the US for Professional Ten-Dance.  In 1993, Elena co-founded Battista Dance Studio (currently Rogers Dance Center) fulfilling a lifelong dream. Dedicated to sharing her passion for dance, Elena teaches and coaches Ballroom and Latin dancing to beginner, intermediate, advanced, and competitive students. For her competitive students, Elena uses her degrees in fashion and make-up artistry to give them an ‘extra edge’ on the dance floor.

Jean Michel Erole – Instructor

Jean Michel is a world-renowned professional Ballroom, Latin dance instructor and choreographer. Haitian born, Jean Michel began his dance training at age 9 and continued it all the way through University while also achieving a B.S. in Civil Engineering. He has trained with the most prominent coaches worldwide and won several titles in the U.S. In addition to being the 2009 United States National Professional Mambo Champion, Jean Michel has won several other competitions and placed in the finals in almost every competition in which he has participated. Jean Michel is certified as an Adjudicator with the NDCA, USISTD, and USTA receiving “Highly Commended” status for a near perfect score, Jean Michel’s reputation extends far beyond the competitive dance floor. He has performed on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” and was a cast member of the Pre-Broadway show “Dirty Dancing-The Classic Story on Stage”. When Jean Michel performs, he embraces his audience and captures its imagination through his vision of dance. As a teacher, he has created a unique teaching/coaching method by combining the natural dynamics of body movement with modern choreography. His innovative holistic style focuses on the total harmony of the mental and physical aspects of dance. In addition, his passion for dance, his energy and his dedication to his students make each lesson a unique experience.

Zoya Altmark – Dance Evaluation Processor and Instructor

Born in Moscow, Zoya began her dance career at the age of 5 studying ice skating and classical ballet. By age 8 she discovered Ballroom and Latin dancing and she was hooked! She quickly became a competitive ’10 dancer’ and by age 12 she was the Israeli National Champion in her division. With a strong background in theater as both a dancer and choreographer, Zoya brings a wonderful disciplined artistic flair to her dancing and her teaching. Although her specialty is in Latin dances, Zoya teaches Ballroom and Club Style dances and for the past 2 years she has been training extensively and teaching Argentine Tango. She is available for private lessons with beginners as well as high level competitors.

Christopher Crevatas – Dance Evaluation Processor and Instructor

Born and raised right here in New Jersey, Christopher taught himself to dance at the age of 7. His dance of preference was Hip Hop and Jazz Break Dancing and, even today he is well known for his Michael Jackson impersonation! At the age of 18, Christopher worked for Actor’s Reps where he did work in independent films and TV commercials such as MTV, Crest Toothpaste, and Child World Toy Story. At age 23, he moved on to Professional Children’s productions at the Pax Amicus Theater where he appeared in Velvetteen Rabbit, Wizard of Oz, Grease & Little Shop of Horrors. Christopher started ballroom dancing in 2001 and immediately fell in love with the art. He has recently performed at several charity events including Autism of NJ and Productions For A Cause, and was recently named Best Male Dancer and Best Group Dance at the 2011 IMTA in Hollywood, CA. His ultimate goal after working tirelessly to sharpen his skills was to teach Ballroom dancing.  Today, Chris is able to bring his strong Ballroom and Latin technical skills and his broad, show based background to his instruction and his choreography. He is available for group lessons and private lessons in Ballroom, Latin, and Club Styles of dance and has a special interest in Hustle and West Coast Swing.

Irina Glezer – Dance Evaluation Processor and Instructor

Born in Russia, Irina began Ballroom and Latin dancing at the age of 5.  She won her first competition with a partner in early 1996 and by 1998 won the Bronze medal at the Russian Nationals in both Ballroom and Latin, where she competed against 15 couples. In December 1998, Irina moved to the United States and continued to compete where she had several first place finishes in 2000 including the Eastern United States Championships, Tri-State Challenge and a Bronze medal in 5 Dance International Latin at the US National Championship.  In 2005, Irina began teaching Hip-Hop at Castro Music and Dance and in 2006 started Ballroom and Latin classes at the Edgewater Recreation Center. She is well versed in both Ballroom and Latin dance styles, with a particular passion for Club Styles such as Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, and House. Most recently she has added Zouk and Kizomba to her repertoire. Irina brings her love of dance and her competitive background to her dance instruction in private lessons as well as group classes. She is also readily available to choreograph for your next big event.

Anna Demidova – Instructor

Anna was born in Moscow, Russia. She started dancing when she was just 6 years old in an after school program at the local community center, following in the footsteps of her older sister, World Champion Katusha Demidova. At the age of 15, Anna won the British Open Junior Ballroom Championship and the Ireland Open Championship. After finishing high school in Moscow, Anna moved to New York City to live with her sister and pursue her dancing career. She began dancing with Andrey Begunov, with whom she was very successful. After becoming the U.S. Youth Champions in 2005 and 2006, they represented the U.S. at the World Championships where they made the finals. They also placed 1st at the Ohio Star Ball, Kings Ball, Tri-State Challenge, BYU Championship and many more competitions in the youth category. After her partnership with Andrey ended, Anna started dancing with Igor Mikushov, with whom she won many competitions such as the Ohio Star Ball, Emerald Ball, Manhattan DanceSport Championship, Tri-State Championship and San Francisco Open. They were also Blackpool Under 21 Ballroom Finalists, U.S. Amateur Ballroom Champions, United Kingdom Open Finalists and International Championship Grand Finalists. Anna is now back dancing with Andrey. Together they turned Professional and are having much success. In their last trip to Blackpool in 2011, they became Professional Rising Star Finalists out of 200 couples and were the highest placed American couple in that division. Practicing and teaching takes up most of Anna’s time, but in her spare time she has also taken up modeling and acting. Anna was on Season 8 of Dancing With The Stars where she won the Professional Challenge and Season 9 of Dancing With The Stars where she was partnered up with former Dallas Cowboy receiver Michael Irvin .

Fred Santiago – Instructor

A graduate of Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater and a minor in Dance, Fred has become a very versatile dance instructor.  While attending college Fred appeared regularly in University musicals, choral groups and operas. He also toured the US and Canada while performing in Summerstock and can even boast that at one time he appeared at Carnegie Hall! Upon graduation Fred taught various performing arts classes, including Jazz, Ballet and Modern Dance. A Ballroom instructor since 1988, Fred is highly experienced in the art of teaching and possesses the ability to encourage and inspire dancers of all levels.  With the help of his strong theatrical background and his natural artistic creativity, Fred has also earned the reputation as an outstanding choreographer. Since 1998, he has consistently produced innovative and highly entertaining numbers for various levels and in different styles for studio Showcases. Although well-versed and knowledgeable in all of the Ballroom dances, Fred has a particular passion for the American Rhythm and Latin styles. His high energy, enthusiasm and fun-loving personality make both his classes and private lessons a treat for new students and regulars alike.

LarisaLarisa Mikryukova - Instructor

Larisa started dancing at the age of 5 in Perm, Russia and at the age of 6 participated in her first competition. Larisa successfully competed and became a champion in one of biggest Russian Ural open championships at the age 11. Recognizing her special abilities and talent Larisa was allowed to teach her first dance lesson when she was 12. Over the years of her teaching, in addition to the rigorous 10 dance competing schedule, Larisa participated in a competitive 8 couples formations. When Larisa finished High School she attended Perm State University where she graduated with Masters degree in Political Science and World Economic Geographical studies. In 2009 Larisa was invited to participate as a choreographer in Chinese circus and theatre in China. Upon conclusion of her tour in China, in 2011 Larisa came to the United States and renewed her competitive career where she currently competes with Jean Michel Erole in American Rhythm. Larisa transforms her great knowledge and expertise to her students on a daily basis where she brings all her best in International style, American style of ballroom dance, as well as Latin dances. Larisa’s high energy performances on the American dance circuit continually prove to be exciting to watch.

headshotMechyk Pavlyuk – Instructor

Mechyslav was born in Ukraine, where he started ballroom dancing at age 7. After moving to the U.S. in 2004 he became the U.S. Youth National Champion and represented the U.S. at two youth World Championships: World 10 Dance in Denmark and World Standard in Spain. In 2013 Mechyslav won the U.S. Amateur National Championship with his current partner Gemma Arnold. Together they represented the U.S. at the 2012 World Championships in Australia and the 2013 World Dancesport Games in Taiwan. After Mechyslav and Gemma started representing England they became 2015 British Professional Ballroom and Showdance Finalists. Mechyslav is a very experienced teacher, who’s readily available to teach from beginner level to the highest competitive level.