Board of Directors

Find fun ways for them to stay active and engaged during the Summer!

Founding Director Emerita, Faculty member


Why do you dance?  My Self responds to the integration of rhythm and movement and always has. As a young child I was whirling wildly and totally investing myself without judgment. My parents noticed and formal training began. At the senior age I am now, dancing is a welcome comfort. It reminds me of who I am — past, present and future. As the thread of my life continues to unfold, dance remains my beloved partner. Why do you choose to continue working at Happendance?  Why not? After 45 years I suppose it is somewhat a habit, a ritual. But Happendance is a deep well of life, art, friendships, opportunities, and memories. I drink in as much as I can handle and still find it refreshing and engaging. What are some things, quotes and/or people who inspire you?
There are many famous people I admire but they are distant heroes. The people who inspire me the most are homegrown, people I actually know and can learn from by observing how they handle life’s problems, from joyful to tragic.  Beyond this, science and nature continue to be great personal motivators to hike, bike, garden, birdwatch and listen. “To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy is one of my favorite poems

Executive Director and Artistic Director


I dance because it is the act that makes me feel most alive and most present in the moment. Through dance I can express aspects of my human experience that there are no words for. Growing up at Happendance allowed me to see what it was like to try as hard as I could every day to inch closer and closer to physical, creative, mental, and emotional goals. This process gave me the tools to create a life for myself that makes me feel empowered, joyful, and satisfied. Working here means that I get to express and share this with my community. It is an honor and a privilege. I am inspired every day by so many of my amazing mentors over the years. They all have the following things in common: soul-guided excellence combined with kindness and rock-solid work ethic. Missy holds a BFA in Dance from the University of Michigan (Earl V. Moore Award, Axon Merit Scholarship) and an MFA in Dance from Arizona State University (Hope Hineman Fellowship). Her thesis, “An Investigation into Business Models in Nonprofit Dance in the United States” was published by Arizona State Press in 2008. She is a presenter for National Dance Education Organization and has presented her research both nationally and internationally. As a concert dance performer, she has danced in works by Martha Graham, Paul Taylor, Isadora Duncan, Doris Humphrey, Peter Sparling, Yvonne Rainner, Mark Haim, David Dorfman, Robin Wilson, Bill DeYoung, Jessica Fogle, and more. She’s danced and toured as a member of five professional companies (Happendance Velocity, 100th Monkey, Travesty Dance Group Cleveland, A. Ludwig Dance Theater, Rayn  Dance Theater.) Missy has choreographed over 30 works for concert dance and musical theater stages. She has conducted residencies at Columbia College and the University of Texas and has served as adjunct faculty for Michigan State University’s Department of Theatre, Alma College, Albion College Lansing Community College, and Arizona State University. Missy was elected to the Lansing Schools Board of Education in 2016. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Michigan Dance Council and is a member of Mayor Andy Schor’s Arts and Culture Commission.



Jo-Ann retired from a 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. After retirement, she joined the Happendance Board of Directors and is in her seventh year as President of the Board.


Why Happendance?  In her own words: “ In the early eighties, I was studying Child Development at MSU and taking dance classes at Lansing Community College when I was introduced to Happendance.  I became a fan attending their concerts whenever possible.  However, it was many years later, when my interest in Child Development and my passion for dance converged.  It was Happendance’s unique philosophy that made me a loyal supporter, i.e. Happendance School offers a learning-centered environment, where dance is taught as a holistic, developmentally-appropriate process connecting technical skills and creative expression.”


Jo-Ann is a life-long learner and an “ageless” dancer. 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 retirement, Jo-Ann and Bruce enjoy travelling and spending more time with family on the East Coast, West Coast and Key West.

Vice President


Sherrie Blankenship is a Certified Public Accountant and joined Maner Costerisan, a business advisory firm, in 2008. As a Partner in the firm’s audit department, she primarily works with real estate, education and nonprofit clients. 

Sherrie grew up in Fraser, Michigan, and settled in DeWitt, Michigan. In her free time, Sherrie enjoys exploring different parts of Michigan, going trail hiking, spending time with family, and attending Happendance shows.



Jim Linnemann is a retired MSU physics professor. He’s been interested in modern dance since he was introduced to it by a member of his research group during his graduate school days at Cornell. He’s followed Happendance performances with pleasure since his arrival in Lansing in 1984, and has been honored to serve as a board member of since 1995.  For much of that time he’s served as treasurer.  Watching his daughter’s experience with Happendance deepened his admiration for its educational and outreach programs. 


Jim still spends much of his day attempting to outwit computers.  He tries to bring his data analysis skills to his treasurer role. He held leadership roles in experiments in high-energy physics at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, a cosmic ray experiment in New Mexico called Milagro, and, presently, in HAWC, a cosmic ray experiment at 13,500 feet altitude in Mexico. 


Jim lives in Haslett with his wife Ruth Eggert Linnemann. He’s started learning to play trumpet, with a goal of playing jazz.  Ruth worked in services and advocacy for the Michigan Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and previously with 4H in Michigan and Wisconsin.  Nowadays she organizes Haslett Food Bank activities.  Ruth invites you to visit the dance chime at the MSU children’s garden. Their daughter Rachel participated in Happendance from age three through college. Jim remembers a few good days when he could think of downhill skiing as a form of dance.


Jessica holds a BA from MSU in Interdisciplinary Humanities and studied dance and theater at both LCC and MSU. After graduating from college she moved to Seattle to study Salsa and Swing dancing. She then got an opportunity to move to NYC in 2000 and moved literally across the country to pursue modeling and acting. After witnessing the events of 9/11, she started her own massage therapy practice as a way to give back. 


Jessica moved back to MI in 2006 with her then fiancé and currently resides in East Lansing. She continues to make house calls and works primarily with friends and family, but also enjoys working from home with a worldwide nutraceutical company that affords her time to raise her twin boys, pursue her passion of dance and new love of Yoga. She has 20 years’ experience as a seasoned Executive Administrator working in everything from fashion, interior design, finance, medical education, pharmaceutical advertising, to farm credit.  Additional experience includes Haute Couture Showroom Director, VIP & Special Events Coordinator, Marketing & Social Media Specialist and Executive Administrative Supervisor. Jessica and her husband are very involved with their church and she currently serves as the Women’s Board President.  


Jessica has been dancing all her life, but only started taking classes in college. She continues to dance with Happendance and enjoys performing in the Spring Recital and the summer DANCE Lansing programs. Her passion is performing and for the last decade she had performed in the Spring Dance Concert with LCC. She has been an avid supporter of dance in the Capital area and worked with both LEPFA and the OTCA to include dance performances in festivals like “Common Ground” and“Oktoberfest”. She hopes to further the opportunities for Adult Dance and Performance in Lansing.

Jessica Dane
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Along with my family, we moved to Lansing from Bay City, Michigan in 1984. In Bay City I was involved in the arts and as a promoter of multicultural dance and music presentations Executive Director for the Spanish Speaking Representative Council, Inc., a 501C-3 non-profit organization. That continued in Lansing with my involvement with the Cristo Rey Fiesta, the Ingham County Multicultural Day Program and numerous City sponsored performance programs. So, it made sense for me to consider serving as a member of the Happendance Board of Directors where we can open doors for all children and young adults who wish to pursue dance as a career. 


I have worked in education governance at the local board of education level, the state level as a Director of the Michigan Association of School Board Members, and at the national level as a Director of the National Association of School Board Members. I retired from the City of Lansing after 30 years of employment in the Department of Human Relations and Community Services. I attended Pan American University, Saginaw State University, and Lansing Community College’s Community Leadership Development Academy.  


On a personal basis, my wife Mary Ann and I have 5 grown children, 10 grandkids, on great grandchild and as I write, another grandchild on the way. We both like to dance and I enjoy golfing as much as I can.  Additionally, we like to travel as the opportunities arise.


Liz Mittman joins the Board of Happendance as a way of giving back to an organization that is important to her family. She is particularly interested in engaging with the Happendance community on issues around racial and economic diversity. Liz is an associate professor in the German Studies program at Michigan State University, where her primary teaching and research interests include East German and post-socialist studies, film and visual culture, and the intersection of gender, voice, and memory in autobiographical literature.


Liz grew up in Oregon and studied in Minnesota. She credits childhood experiences in Ethiopia and Afghanistan with giving rise to a lifelong passion for language study and international travel. As a student and professor, she has spent extended periods of time in Germany, including two memorable years in 1980s Leipzig and East Berlin. A lover of literature and the arts, she is a classical violinist who wishes she had the time to play in a string quartet. 


Currently, Liz’s time is divided primarily between her work at MSU and being the mother of two children; her daughter, Zebiba, is a member of Happendance Impulse (Young Artists) and a student of ballet and contemporary dance. Liz and her husband, Vaughn, live in East Lansing and are active members of the Racial Justice Task Force at Edgewood United Church.



Kathy Thomas currently works for the State of Michigan.  She earned her BA from Colorado Technical University; CSM earned through Scrum Alliance and is currently working on her MBA with a focus in Human Resource Management.   She has a passion for giving back to the community and helping others, which is why she joined the Board of Happendance; to help dancers with inner and outer beauty and self-confidence by teaching them about skincare and glamour products that her Mary Kay business has taught her well.


Kathy recently started her non-profit—a  technology, science, and math before and after school program, WilMa STEAM Foundation, which primarily focuses on teaching the principles of S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) helping the underserved community giving them a greater opportunity to discover the many facets of learning including building robots and robotics for math competitions throughout the state.


Kathy has one daughter and currently lives in Lansing. They both enjoy shopping, traveling, and spending time with family. They are very involved in their church where Kathy is the President of Executive Counsel, as well as the Chair the Women’s Ministry

kathy thomas


Nicolle Zellner is a professor of physics at Albion College in Albion, MI, where she teaches introductory and advanced astronomy and physics courses. She is also the advisor for the College’s dance team because, after dancing for most of her life, she just can’t get dance out of her system. Nicolle is a member of the Happendance Board of Directors so that she can keep her pointed toes in the world of dance.


Nicolle is an advocate for promoting women in science and does so through her professional organizations. Her scholarly interests focus on understanding the impact history of the Earth-Moon system and how those impacts affected the conditions for life on Earth. During the 2006-2007 field season, she was a member of the AN SMET team that searched for meteorites in Antarctica. In 2018, she was named Albion College’s Teacher of the Year.


Nicolle lives in Holt, where she loves to garden and tend to summer flowers when not traveling for work and pleasure. She also still dabbles in dance, takes Zumba, and practices yoga.