Our History - Happendance

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About Us
The Story – Then and Now . . .

Inspiring through dance since 1976, Happendance celebrated its Fortieth
Anniversary in June 2016. Happendance is the leading Dance School and Performance Company in Mid-Michigan with a long history of artistic excellence in Education, Performance, and Engagement. It is a community of dance and movement artists bringing the very best in dance to everyone.

In June 1976, Diane Newman organized a small group of dancers to stage a free summer performance on the grassy banks of the Red Cedar River flood plain behind the Auditorium Building on the MSU campus. People would happen by to watch the dancers rehearse, and ultimately the group promoted the performance as Happendance. Thus, mid-Michigan’s only professional dance company was born. For over thirty-five years, Diane continued to lead the organization, training others to direct, choreograph, perform, and teach at Happendance School. She enlisted a supportive group of volunteers and board members to help secure her vision for Happendance as an outstanding cultural treasure for the entire community to engage with and enjoy. In 2013 when Diane decided to retire from leading the organization, a special individual appeared to carry on Diane’s legacy and lead Happendance into its future. Missy Lilje, her protégé, and alumna of the Happendance School became Chief Executive Officer of Happendance, Inc. With a Bachelor’s degree in dance from the University of Michigan, a Master’s of Fine Arts in Dance from Arizona State University, and substantial professional experience, Missy Lilje assumed leadership of Happendance on April 1, 2013.

Under Missy’s leadership, Happendance has seen unprecedented growth. Now located in both Okemos and Lansing, Happendance, Inc. operates Happendance School and the Happendance Foundation. One hundred percent of all proceeds from the Happendance School and all donations are used to support our Foundation Programs, including Happendance Velocity! Concert Dance, Happendance Impulse Student Performance Company, Happendance Education Exchange, and DANCE Lansing Community Dance Project. These programs provide accessible, low-cost educational and performance opportunities for area dancers of all ages and abilities as well as creating a collaborative community of movement artists.
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