Inspiring Through Dance Since 1976

Happendance Board of Directors


Jo-Ann retired from a successful 30-year career in the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University where she was the Human Resources Manager for 100+ staff members and the Executive Assistant to five (5) Deans. She joined the Happendance Board of Directors in August 2014 and has served as Vice-President and is now serving as President of the Board. It was her passion for dance that brought her back to Happendance. She enjoys volunteering for Happendance and sharing her knowledge and skills wherever needed.
Jo-Ann is a life-long learner and an “ageless” dancer. Therefore, it’s not surprising that she is taking dance classes at Happendance and has re-admitted into a degree program at MSU wherein she is studying another passion of hers—Child Development. She spends a lot of her time studying, going to class and working with young children. Her work with preschool children combines her knowledge of social and emotional development and creative movement providing young children a fun environment in which they can acquire the skills necessary in becoming a socially competent adult.
Jo-Ann lives in East Lansing with her husband, Bruce, a Michigan State University Professor Emeritus in the College of Communication, Arts and Sciences. In retirement, both Jo-Ann and Bruce are enjoying life and spending more time with family.


Sherrie joined Maner Costerisan Finance Firm in 2008. As a senior manager in the firm’s audit department, she primarily works with education and nonprofit entities, including service organizations, trade associations and religious organizations.

Sherrie grew up in Fraser, Michigan and settled in Grand Ledge, Michigan, with her husband, Aaron, and their two daughters. In her free time, Sherrie enjoys baking, spending time with her family and attending concerts.



Jim Linnemann is a physics professor at MSU. He spends much of his day attempting to outwit computers. He performs experiments in high-energy physics at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, and participates in a cosmic ray experiment in New Mexico called Milagro. He's been interested in modern dance since his graduate school days at Cornell, when a fellow researcher started taking classes. He's followed Happendance with pleasure since his arrival in Lansing in 1984, and has been pleased to serve as a board member of Happendance since 1995.

Jim lives in Haslett with his wife Ruth Eggert Linnemann. Ruth works with the Michigan Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. She invites you to visit the dance chime at the MSU children's garden. Their daughter Rachel has taken classes at Happendance since she was three. On (rare) good days, Jim thinks of downhill skiing as a form of dance.

MELODY STONE ~ Secretary

Melody has been involved with teaching children for nearly twenty-five years. While attending a small liberal arts college, she was introduced to the grace and beauty on the arts of music and dance. During her tenure with the Lansing School District as a French teacher, Melody witnessed the importance of the arts and the unfortunate diminishing presence of dance, art, and music in the classroom. Through her board experience, she is pleased to have the opportunity to bring more exposure to Lansing neighborhoods and its adjacent suburbs. As a mom of five children, Melody strives to carve time out for herself and her husband Scott.


Chris is the Deputy State Director of the Michigan Republican Party. He strives to engage communities through an empowered volunteer base, recruit talented, motivated community leaders, and manage difference-makers to impact and enrich daily lives of Michigan citizens. He is an avid arts supporter and enjoys volunteer work at his church, Emmanuel Lutheran. However, his favorite activity is spending time with his wife and 2-year old daughter.


Alison is an Associate Professor of Integrated Performance Media Design at Michigan State University, received her M.F.A. in Digital Cinema from National University and her A.B. in Mathematics from Oberlin College. Alison is a motion graphics artist interested in documenting and exploring new ways of presenting creative activity as a projected performance art. For the past five years, she has been head of the video production program at Stark State College, teaching a variety of courses on digital image and video manipulation. Her most recent artistic work was a collaboration with choreographer Alicia Díaz on the documentary "Yucuninu: The Development of a Dance." She has also worked as a film artist with the Cleveland based dance company, Verlezza Dance. Her best work is done at home with her husband, Patrick and stepson, Noah.


John is the dynamic owner of Okemos Music Academy. He holds a degree in violin performance and is an accomplished professional performer and music educator. He is extremely involved with his church and family (five children and 3 grandchildren!) He holds multiple food drives and fund raisers for local charities every year as he believes service is vital to the education of his students and adds to the vibrancy of the community.


Kobra holds a PhD in Human Nutrition from Texas Women’s University and is the Director of Data, Research and Technology, Michigan WIC Program, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services. She is a native of Iran and is fluent in English and Farsi. A generous philanthropist, Ms. Eghtedary is committed to enhancing the community where she lives and works. Her pride and joy is her 16-year-old daughter, who is in her junior year, studying Dance at Interlochen Arts Academy.


Jessica is a seasoned executive administrator and certified massage therapist. She has contributed her talents working for the Old Town Commercial Association in Lansing as well as LEPFA. Presently, she juggles her massage and nutrition consulting business, LifeVantage, with raising her 2-year-old twin boys and spending time with her husband.


MISSY LILJE ~ Executive Director (non-voting member)


Missy Lilje (BFA in Dance, University of Michigan; MFA in Dance, Arizona State University) has toured nationally and over-seas, presenting her research and performing with the five professional companies she's been a part of (Happendance, 100th Monkey, A. Ludwig Dance Theater, Rayn Dance Theater and Travesty Dance Group.) Missy has a long history with Happendance and serves it in many capacities. She studied with Diane Newman from age seven through high school. Between her university studies in Ann Arbor and Phoenix she successfully auditioned for the Happendance professional company and taught at the school, and also served as Dance Faculty Liaison at Lansing Community College. From Arizona she moved back to Lansing and has been busy with Happendance ever since. She served as Artistic Director for the professional dancers, as well as the pre-professional company Happendance 2, until being hired in 2013 to succeed Diane Newman as Executive Director.

PATTY VILLANUEVA ~ School Director, and Artistic Director of Professional Company (non-voting member)

"Patty" joined Happendance School staff in 1998, teaching ballet. She moved to the Lansing area from Holland, Michigan, where she taught dance in the Black River Public Schools and ballet and modern dance classes offered through the Holland Area Arts Council. She also taught at Hope College where she received her B.F.A. in dance (1991) and was honored with a Distinguished Artists Award. Patty served as ballet mistress for the Junior Company of the Holland Area Youth Ballet, and as a soloist and rehearsal director for Aerial Dance Company (a modern repertory group). She has been a guest instructor at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. In Lansing she works with Children's Ballet Theatre of Michigan, as Ballet Mistress, and has taught their summer ballet clinics. She also teaches at The Dance Conservatory in Charlotte. Patty received a Distinguished Service award in May 2009 from Happendance for her 10 years on staff at Happendance School, where she continues to teach. She has performed and choreographed with Community Dance Project, with the full professional company and the Happendance To Go outreach performing team. In 2013 she was appointed as Artistic Director of the Happendance Professional Company, including its outreach team.

LISA WHITING-DOBSON ~ Artistic Director of Happendance 2 and Community Dance Project (non-voting member)

Lisa holds four degrees in telecommunication, psychology and dance, and has won over 70 regional, national and international awards for her producing, directing and editing work. She is a full-time faculty member at Michigan State University in the Telecommunications Department, an adjunct at Lansing Community College, and teacher of ballet at Class Act Studio. For the past decade she has been the most sought-after dance stage manager in the Greater Lansing region. She manages and choreographs for Happendance's pre-professional company, Happendance 2, and has provided some of the best-received choreography at Community Dance Project, for which she also serves as Artistic Director.

HEATHER VAUGHAN-SOUTHARD ~ Director Happendance Exchange (non-voting member)

Information coming soon.

DEANNE RIVERA ~ Artists' Representative (non-voting member)

Deanne has been dancing since age 3. During 14 years at Bauer Dance Studio in Holt, she trained in ballet, lyrical, jazz, tap and hip hop. She also started her teaching career there, as an assistant instructor, in 1997. Deanne performed with the Holt High School Varsity Dance Team from 1998-2001, competing at state, regional and national competitions. In 2002, Deanne joined the staff at Synergy Dance Academy in Holt, where she added modern dance training while refining her other dance styles. At Synergy, Deanne served as an instructor, a dancer and choreographer with their Professional Performance Company, and co-directed the Senior Touring Company with Lisa Whiting Dobson. She began studying technique at Happendance School in 2009, and choreographed works for the student company, Happendance 2, in 2010 and 2011. In both of those years she also successfully auditioned as a dancer and choreographer for Community Dance Project. In March of 2011, she was accepted as a member of Happendance professional company, and that fall began performing with the Happendance To Go team. Deanne earned a B.A. in English Literature from MSU in 2007, and is currently pursuing an M.A. in the same field from Central Michigan University.

DIANE NEWMAN ~ Founding Director Emeritus - (non-voting member)


Diane has been active in developing dance in the Lansing area since 1968 while a student at Michigan State University. She received a B.S. degree in Zoology with a dance minor, completing a Master's Degree in Parks and Recreation Resources Administration in 1975. While a graduate student, Diane began teaching at Lansing Community College; helped form the MSU Repertory Dance Company; established Newman Dance Theater (now Happendance School) in 1974; began teaching dance mechanics to competitive athletes in 1975; and in 1976 founded Happendance, a non-profit organization and mid-Michigan's only professional contemporary dance company.

In 1981 Diane was selected by the Michigan Dance Association as Michigan Dance Teacher of the Year. She served as Artistic Director of Children's Ballet Theatre of Lansing from 1991-1995. Diane has co-authored a book with colleagues Beth Post and Dr. Lynnette Overby, published in 2005, to teach core curricula through dance, titled Interdisciplinary Learning through Dance: 101 MOVEntures. In 2007, she was selected by the Michigan Dance Council as Dance Educator of the Year.

She resigned as Executive Director of Happendance in 2013, but continues to manage and develop the curriculum for Happendance School, where she also teaches many levels of ballet, modern, composition, and creative classes for young children.