Diane Newman Alumni Award - Happendance

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2019 Diane Newman Award for Distinguished Alumni Honoree Robin Skory
A Letter from Robin Skory

To all of the dancers and Happendance tribe, CONGRATULATIONS! The spring concert is a time to celebrate all of your hard work and to enjoy being together. I’m honored to receive the Diane Newman award this year and am so sorry to miss the concert. What can I say? I had to work on Labor and Delivery tonight. The pregnant women of San Francisco just wouldn’t take a night off.

I don’t want to keep you from your performance, so I’ll keep it short. I am who I am because of Diane Newman. I started dancing with Diane at 9 years old and quickly became a disciple. The space she created just clicked with me. She fostered creativity within structure and discipline. She taught me to love the work – and it was always in the details. Diane had a way of deconstructing movement – the dynamics of my finger placement mattered, the contraction of opposing ankle muscles mattered, the tilt of my head mattered. Diane spoke to everyone with investment and intelligence. Even at 9 years old she never talked down to me. Pirouettes were talked about in vectors and torque. Emotion was more than happiness and joy. She expected a lot and I was always working to meet her. You can always work harder.

In my current life, I am no longer obsessing over finger or ankle placement. But I rely on my Diane Newman skills to get me through the day. In surgery I try to think like Diane – how can I deconstruct this 4 hour surgery to smaller steps? Can I improve the tilt of my hand? The speed of my scalpel? In research I rely on her skills – how can I be scientifically creative within the structure of peer review? Can I look at that experiment in another way? In teaching residents and medical students I try to invoke Diane. How can I strike fear, inspiration and confidence all at the same time?

Diane is truly special. Her students are all imprinted with the same qualities – passion, creativity and commitment. I am who I am because of her. I grew up surrounded by lifelong friends at Happendance and am forever grateful.

Robin Skory, MD, PhD
Resident Physician, PGY4
Dept of OB/GYN and Reproductive Sciences

Robin was born on February 25, 1983 in Seoul, South Korea.  Her name was Yoo Jin Hee.  On July 18 she was flown with 6 other orphans to Detroit Metro Airport where she met her parents, Arlie and Mike Skory. She was just four and a half months old.

Robin grew up in Dimondale, Michigan and attended Holt Public Schools.  Every year she would attend The Nutcracker with her grandmother.  When she was old enough to read the program, she realized that she could actually audition for Children’s Ballet Theatre.  There she met Diane Newman, who was Artistic Director. Eventually she began taking lessons at Happendance.  She tried all kinds of dance, but ballet was always her favorite.

Robin graduated from Holt High School in 2001.  She received a scholarship from Jackson National Life which allowed her to attend Boston College where she studied Biochemistry.  She was also a member of the Boston College Dance Ensemble, dancing and choregraphing for all four years. She graduated in 2005 and spent 3 additional years in Boston.  In that time, she worked at Dana Farber Cancer Institute as a clinical research coordinator, Wyeth Laboratories as an associate scientist and Urbanity Dance as a founding dancer.

She attended Northwestern University and Feinberg School of Medicine from 2008 to 2014 on a full scholarship as a part of the Medical Scientist Training Program of the National Institutes of Health. She completed her MD and a PhD in Reproductive Biology.  She is currently in San Francisco completing her residency in Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).  Her next move will be to Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania to complete a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.  Her research/clinical interests include ovulation, emergency contraception, follicle development, and fertility preservation. As Robin puts it “…I plan to continue studying good eggs and bad eggs for the rest of my career.”

Robin’s publications have focused on the ovarian cycle, in vitro follicle growth, and integrating obstetricians and gynecologists in the care of young cancer patients.
She has presented her work to:
  • The Endocrine Society
  • The American Society for Reproductive Medicine
  • The American Physician Scientist Association
  • The American Society for Clinical Investigation.

Her honors include:
  • 2005 Phi Beta Kappa, Boston College, College of Arts and Sciences
  • 2011 - 2014 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Individual Predoctoral MD/PhD Fellows, NIH/National Institute on Aging
  • 2014 Alpha Omega Alpha, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine

Robin credits Happendance and Diane Newman with teaching her discipline combined with creativity and an understanding of the human body, providing a firm foundation for her subsequent endeavors.

2018 Diane Newman Award for Distinguished Alumni Honoree Julianne VanWagenen
Julianne VanWagenen started dancing at Newman Dance Theater in 1987, at the age of 3. After February 1993, Newman Dance Theater became Happendance School. Julianne graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelors of Arts in English and Italian in 2006 and then spent 5 years in Rome, Italy, where she attended university and taught language. In 2011, Julianne began a doctoral program in Italian Studies at Harvard University, graduating in May 2017, and she now lives and teaches in Los Angeles, California, as a lecturer in Italian at the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Julianne has lived in Chicago; Rome, Italy; Santiago, Chile; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Los Angeles, California; and no matter where she goes, she dances. She has found that the training she received at Happendance has prepared her to dance with any school, no matter the caliber, even with the likes of Joffrey dancers at Ruth Page in Chicago, or for Tai Jimenez and Yury Yanowsky of the Boston Ballet.
2017 Diane Newman Award for Distinguished Alumni Honoree Nick Rehberger
Nick Rehberger studied at Happendance School during his high school studies at Haslett High School and graduated in 2009. This summer he makes his Chicago debut at Chicago Shakespeare Theater as Will Shakespeare in Shakespeare In Love. His Broadway credits include: The Glass Menagerie, directed by John Tiffany; and Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Bartlett Sher. Film credits include: I Am Michael. Television credits include: Girls (HBO), The Deuce (HBO), and Gotham (FOX). Mr. Rehberger received his BFA in musical theatre from Carnegie Mellon University in 2013.

In accepting this award, Mr. Rehberger had this to say:
"Wow! Thank you for thinking of me for this award! It really means a lot. Of course, I am completely honored to accept it. Although I am always working on improving my dance technique, I know that the dance training I had in high school at Happendance prepared me to be less afraid to dive into the very intense movement and dance classes I took in college. From there, I had no fear to seek out productions with a strong physical life. Thank You!
2016 Diane Newman Award for Distinguished Alumni Honoree Amy Astley
Amy Astley is now the Editor-In-Chief of Architectural Digest. At the time of her award, she was the Editor-In-Chief of Teen Vogue. As the founding Editor of the magazine, Astley melded street style, high fashion, and pop culture to create not only a successful magazine - but a dynamic teen lifestyle brand. Teen Vogue has a circulation of over one million readers and has been nominated twice for a National Magazine Award for General Excellence.

In October 2009, Astley released her first book, The Teen Vogue Handbook:  An Insider’s Guide to Careers in Fashion. The New York Times bestseller is a practical reference guide for young adults interested in all areas of fashion: design, styling, photography, and journalism - reinforcing Teen Vogue’s motto, “Fashion Starts Here.” An updated version the handbook, with 90% new content, was released in November 2014. Ashley has also pioneered annual industry events such as Teen Vogue’s Fashion University and the Young Hollywood party. She developed a Teen Vogue bedding collection, available at leading national retailers such as Macy’s, Bed Bath and Beyond, and JC Penney, and in July 2014, developed a Teen Vogue line of Back-to-School products sold exclusively at Staples.

A twenty-seven year veteran of Conde Nast, Astley has been named one of Forbes magazine’s most powerful U.S. fashion editors, for continuously fueling the creative world of teen culture, beauty, entertainment, and fashion through print, editorial, web, and social media outlets. A longtime supporter of the arts and dance education in particular, Astley has been honored for her contributions and twice co-chaired both the National Dance Institute and the Youth American Grand Prix benefit fundraisers.

She began her career in 1989 at House and Garden, where she worked as an Associate Editor. Ashley joined Vogue in 1993 as a Beauty Associate, and became the Beauty Director by the following year. She worked at Vogue until she was chosen by Anna Wintour to launch Teen Vogue in 2003.

Astley is a graduate of the Honors College at Michigan State University, class of 1989 with a degree in English. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.  She studied classical ballet intensively with Diane Newman from 1979-1984.
2015 Diane Newman Award for Distinguished Alumni Honoree Christine Hill-Kayser
Christine Hill-Kayser is a graduate of East Lansing High School, and danced at the Happendance School from ages 9 -18. After a year at Tisch School of the Arts as a dance major, she enrolled at the University of Michigan and then at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, from which she received her MD in 2005. Chrissie completed her medical training in Radiation Oncology and joined the Penn Faculty in 2010. She now spends her time taking care of pediatric cancer patients, with special research focus on survivorship issues for patients who have completed active cancer care. She is the Chief of the Pediatric Radiation Oncology Service and the Editor-in-Chief of OncoLink, a cancer information website, at the University of Pennsylvania. In both of these roles, she travels around the world teaching others about cancer survivorship and the role of a new technology, proton therapy, in improving quality of life for patients who require radiation for cancer. She lives in Philadelphia and continues taking dance classes at Koresh School of Dance, sometimes alone, but more often with her three year old daughter, Mabel. She reminds Mabel of a lesson that she keeps in her heart from Diane Newman – “whatever you do, always do your very best.” This message has stood Chrissie in good stead through both dance and medical training, as well as in daily life, and is one never to forget.
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