Irina Vassileni, Artistic Director


Irina Vassileni is a well-known instructor and re-stager of classical ballets with over 30 years teaching and coaching experience in the United States. She is a graduate of the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, a former Bolshoi Ballet dancer and holds a BFA degree in Methodology of Classical Ballet and Choreography.

Irina began her training by entering the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow at the age ten. After graduating with honors in 1979, she was invited to join the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet. During her time with the company she performed various roles in all major classical and contemporary repertoire and toured worldwide.

In 1990, Irina moved to the United States and was invited to become Ballet Mistress and Director of Education for Ballet Iowa in Des Moines, Iowa. She worked directly with all dancers in the company in restaging major classical works as well as new choreography, while creating the school’s curriculum and training teachers. Upon relocating to New York in 1998, Ms. Vassileni opened her own school. She owned and operated Russian Ballet School, located on Long Island though 2006.

Prior to her tenure with the Michigan Ballet Academy, Ms. Vassileni taught classes and workshops across the country. In 2011, she accepted a position with the Corvallis Ballet Academy in Corvallis, Oregon where she taught students of all levels through 2014 when she accepted a new role at the Classical Ballet of Colorado in Denver.

Throughout her career as an instructor she has taught master classes, teaching seminars and participated in lectures and workshops with professional institutions nationwide. She has produced professional dancers and teachers currently working in some of the foremost companies and schools throughout the US, and worldwide.

Chien-Ming Lin, Ballet Master

Mr. Lin has an M.A. in Teaching Dance with a concentration in ABT Pedagogy from NYU Steinhardt.  He is also certified in all levels of the ABT National Training Curriculum.  From August 2010 through August 2017, Mr. Lin was Ballet Master and Program Director at a studio in Iowa. For the past year, Mr. Lin has been teaching at several schools in the New York area. Mr. Lin, who began his dance training in both ballet and traditional dance in Taipei, Taiwan, is also an accomplished traditional Chinese dancer and was selected for best technique award at the 2000 National Chinese Dance Competition in Taiwan.

Mr. Lin shares Ms. Vassileni’s belief that every student can benefit from the discipline of classical ballet and the skills and life-knowledge that is gained from the study of ballet.  Mr. Lin’s teaching vision “is to cultivate dancers who are well-rounded artists, appreciating the work ethic, beauty, and rich history behind various dance forms and cultures.” 



Nathan Young, Boys' Class

Nathan Young began dancing at the age of thirteen under the direction of Rebecca-Miller Stalcup, Melinda Tobian, and Mark Bush in Little Rock, AR. Nathan attended summer intensives such as Long Beach Ballet, Joffrey Midwest, Joffrey Chicago, and Ballet West. In 2013, Nathan graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Fine arts in Ballet Performance. After graduation, Nathan began dancing professionally with Nashville Ballet, working there for four seasons. He currently dances with the Grand Rapids Ballet in Michigan. Nathan has danced in works by George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, Jiri Kylian, Jennifer Archibald, Trey McIntyre, Paul Vasterling, and Bronislava Nijinska.

Denise Olson, Ballet Instructor

Ms. Olson holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Dance Education and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Western Michigan University.  Ms. Olson’s 15 years of dance teaching experience include area dance schools, the Grand Rapids School of Performing Arts, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, and Calvin College.  Denise’s professional dance experience includes the Joffrey Concert Dancers in New York and the Grand Rapids Civic Ballet where she performed lead roles in Gaite Parisianne, Coppelia, Les Sylphides, and the Nutcracker.  In addition to her experience in dance performance and dance education, Ms. Olson spent over 20 years in elementary education in the Grand Rapids Public Schools.



Amy Wilson, Modern and Jazz Dance Instructor

Amy Wilson graduated from Wichita State University with a BFA in Dance, with an emphasis on modern, ballet, and jazz. Amy moved from NYC to Grand Rapids, MI in 2001, ultimately founding Dance in the Annex, a contemporary dance collective. DITA regularly hosts Master Classes and produces two ongoing, large-scale concerts featuring original works by DITA and Guest Artists. "Salmagundi" (Fall) and "Trip The Light" (Spring) involves nearly 50 musicians, performers, choreographers, technical engineers and volunteers. In addition to master classes, performances and site-specific work, Wilson has added dance-on-camera productions to the DITA repertoire - the DITA portfolio now includes many high-quality, original works. Amy has worked as an adjunct professor of dance and guest choreographer and instructor at Grand Valley State University, Zeeland High School, balletmore, ADCFA (American College Dance Festival Association) and several dance studios in West Michigan. She has set pieces for Grand Rapids Symphony Women’s Committee, Moms Bloom, UICA NoshNight, OddBall, RadFest hosted by Wellspring/Cori Terry and Dancers in Kalamazoo, MI., TEDx Grand Rapids and SiTE:LAB. Most recently DITA was awarded the Time Based Juror Award for their piece respirador (breather) at ArtPrize 2014. Amy was recently awarded the ArtPrize 2015 Fellowship for Emerging Curators.


Nikolas Makhateli, Former Artistic Director

Mr. Makhateli received the highest qualification as a Ballet Master and Choreographer in 1987 from the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg. He obtained a Master’s Degree as Teacher/Repetiteur of Choreography. His areas of expertise include the full Vaganova syllabus, the entire Petipa repertory, and the eight-year syllabus of classical ballet (including character, pas de deux, music, history of theatre and art).

Mr. Makhateli was a principal dancer with the National Opera and Ballet Theater of Tbilisi, Georgia, where he danced leading roles in Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Les Sylphides, Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Don Quixote, Coppelia, Flames of Paris, and Raymonda among others. Mr. Makhateli also has extensive experience as teacher and choreographer. He was head of the dance department at the Institute of Fine Arts in Tbilisi, Georgia. For three years he was the Master Teacher and Choreographer of the National Ballet School, Madras Africa, in Senegal. He was also the Master Ballet Teacher of the National Ballet School in Nicaragua. He was the Artistic Director of “Makhateli Ballet” which received the “Most Outstanding Ballet School in Colorado for 2005” by Youth America Grand Prix. Mr. Makhateli was awarded “Outstanding Teacher” in Colorado for 2006 at the Youth America Grand Prix. He has taught at the Ascot Ballet Academy in Colorado where several of his students received first place in the semifinals of Youth America Grand Prix and went on to the final competition in New York City. Most recently, he taught at the Kirov Ballet Academy in Washington, DC.