Meet Our Staff

Our award winning faculty has over 150 years of teaching experience. Teachers work together to provide individual attention to each student. 


Irina Makkai

Founder, Artistic Director
IRINA MAKKAI (Classical Ballet) Irina graduated from a nine year program at the Professional Classical Ballet School of Cluj, Romania. She became a solo dancer at the Iasi Opera performing in Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Faust and other classical and modern ballets. Upon completion of the three year program in ballet education at the Bucharest Institute of Choreography, which included courses in history of dance, ballet methodology, physiology and pedagogy, she obtained her degree in Ballet Education. She began teaching ballet in 1974, and since 1981 has offered Classical Ballet classes in Highland Park, bringing the Vaganova-Tarasov method to the North Shore. 

Lilla Makkai Daniels

Creative Director, Artistic Director of Youth Company

LILLA MAKKAI DANIELS (Ballet, Pointe, and Pre-Ballet) Lilla started her ballet education with Irina Makkai. She has also studied with Larry Long, Dan Duell and Homer Bryant. For years she has been a scholarship student at the Houston Ballet Academy, Joffrey Ballet School and the School of American Ballet. Lilla has performed with Bryant Ballet, Ballet Chicago, Ballet Theater of Chicago, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago in such ballets as; Giselle, Coppelia, and the Nutcracker. She will continue teaching Pre-Ballet, Ballet and Pointe classes. Lilla also established the Ballet Makkai Youth Company which participates in such festivals as the Dance Chicago Festival, Annual Student Choreographic Workshop and produces the school's annual performance of the Nutcracker. For details on this program please e-mail Lilla at: [email protected] 

Olivia Duryea

Director of Master Class Workshops and Summer Intensives

OLIVIA DURYEA (Ballet)Olivia was born and raised in Haslett, Michigan. She received her early training at the Happendance School under the direction of Diane Newman and Patricia Villanueva and performed for several years with Capitol Ballet Theatre of Michigan under the direction of Gregory George. Accepted into the Joffrey Academy, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet in 2014, Ms. Duryea danced as a Trainee from 2014-2016. She was then invited to join the Joffrey Studio Company for the 2016-2017 season. In 2017 Ms. Duryea joined the Joffrey Ballet. Since dancing with the company, she has performed in the world premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Nutcracker” and Yuri Possokhov’s “Anna Karenina”. She also performed featured roles in Jerome Robbin’s “Glass Pieces”, George Balanchine’s “The Four Temperaments”, Liam Scarlett’s “Vespertine”, and Justin Peck’s “The Times are Racing”.

Sara Bibik

Director of Jazz Department

SARA BIBIK (Jazz, Tap) Sara attended the National Academy of Arts, in Champagne, Illinois, where she also began her career as an instructor. Sara has taught at Western Kentucky University, Gus Giordano Dance Center and Dance Educators of America. Her professional performing experience has been with the Linda Martha Dance Company, Especially Tap Company, Gus Giordano Dance Chicago, and is a founding member of the River North Dance Company. Sara is currently the Assistant to the Artistic Director and Workshop Coordinator of River North Chicago. She is also a recipient of the Ruth Page Award for Excellence in Dance. Sara has been on the School's faculty for the past thirty years, and will continue teaching, and overseeing our Jazz, Tap, and Modern classes.

Levizadik Buckins

Modern and Jazz

LEVIZADIK BUCKINS (Modern) began his dance education at the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, Connecticut. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, under the direction Ethan Stiefel. During his time at UNCSA, he worked with choreographers such as Brenda Daniels, Trish Casey, and Diego Schoch. He has also had the chance to work with well-known choreographers Maurya Kerr, Larry Keigwin, Scott Rink, and Trish Lent. He has performed professionally with the Winston-Salem Festival of Ballet under the direction of Gary Taylor in North Carolina, and River North Dance Chicago under the direction of Frank Chaves. Levizadik currently lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Ashley Bocinsky

Ballet, Pointe, Variations

ASHLEY BOCINSKY (Pre-Dance, Ballet) Ashley studied ballet with Dmitri Ruednev in Chicago, at the Harid Conservatory and was a scholarship student of our school. Upon graduation from high school Ashley continued her ballet education at the University of Utah. She performed with Dance Alive National Ballet in various roles from The Nutcracker and other classical and modern pieces choreographed by Kim Tuttle and Judy Skinner. In 2013 Ashley returned to the Chicago area and started teaching Pre-Dance and Ballet classes at our school. Students, as well as parents like her very much and we are happy to have her as one of our talented teachers. 

Meghan Howe


MEGHAN HOWE (Pre-Dance, Ballet)  Meghan trained at Ballet Makkai and attended Summer Intensives at Milwaukee Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. She  graduated from Vanderbilt University where she was the captain of the Vanderbilt Dance Team and Performed various works with the Vanderbilt Dance Theatre under the direction of Jennifer McNamara, Kelvin Amburgey, and Tom Shoemaker. 

Ernest Makkai

Director of Productions and Design

ERNEST MAKKAI began his career in Civil and Structural Engineering. After retirement from a successful career at Skidmore, Owning and Merrill, Ernest took over as Director of Productions and Design. His set design of the Ballet Makkai Nutcracker delights audiences every year. He also designed and created our beloved Nutcracker and Mouse King. 

Mia Elkin


MIA ELKIN (Pre-Dance, Tap) Mia trained at Ballet Makkai since she was two years old and was a substitute and student teacher for two years. She was a member of the Ballet Makkai Youth Company on the Ballet Makkai Junior Board. She was one of the original mice in Nutcracker and most recently danced the lead role of Snow Queen. Mia is attending Illinois Institute of Technology majoring in Architectural Engineering. Mia is extremely excited to continue to be a member of the Ballet Makkai family, this year as a teacher.