Happendance celebrates 40th anniversary

Posted at 1:36 PM, Jun 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-09 13:37:07-04

The public is invited to a 40th Anniversary Celebration for Happendance and Founder Diane Newman where it all began on the banks of the Red Cedar River on the MSU Campus just South of the MSU Auditorium on Sunday, June 12, 2016 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Performances by Happendance Velocity! Concert Dance, the new name for the original Happendance Professional Company that presented its first performance exactly forty years ago, and Happendance Impulse, the pre-professional student company. A special tribute to Happendance Founder and Director Emerita Diane Newman is also planned. Light refreshments will be served. 

“From its MSU student beginnings forty years ago, Happendance has exploded in size and programs and has become a warm community of accomplished dancers who strive for the highest artistic and community service standards,” says Happendance CEO Missy Lilje.

On June 12, 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 on the Michigan State University 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.

Now located in both Okemos and Lansing, Happendance, Inc. operates the Happendance School and Happendance Foundation programs— Happendance Velocity! Concert Dance, Happendance Impulse Student Dance Company, Happendance Education Exchange, Happendance Exchange Lansing (HXL), Happendance Heals, and DANCE Lansing Community Dance Project. Now serving over 6,000 students per year, Happendance offers 75+ classes a week and 34+ performances a year. Happendance's programs provide accessible, low-cost educational performance opportunities for area dancers of all ages and abilities as well as create a collaborative community of movement artists.

Patricia Villanueva, Artistic Director of Happendance Velocity! Concert Dance and Happendance School Director says it’s a labor of love. “It is such an honor to direct the Happendance company and school founded by Diane Newman. As a college dance major, I dreamed of what my future might hold. Today as a dance professional, Happendance has big city quality and opportunities, and is everything I had hoped for right here in Lansing. I will always be grateful to Diane Newman for her vision, creativity, and leadership.”

Diane Newman, Happendance Founder and Director Emerita, is a two-time winner of the Michigan Dance Teacher of the Year Award, featured in DANCE TEACHER Magazine, a Michigan State University faculty member in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, and public author. She says, “That Happendance has thrived for forty years amazes me. I certainly didn’t have a long view when Happendance started. I just enjoyed learning how to run a nonprofit dance company from great mentors as well as reveled in the opportunity to be creative with a like-minded group of dancers. And though I may have started Happendance, it has taken a special army of artists and volunteers to create its longevity and legacy. I am proud that our united endeavors have touched thousands of people through dance, and satisfied to know that as my efforts decrease, a new group of arts warriors are envisioning the next forty years of Happendance."