Inspiring Through Dance Since 1976

Happendance History

Colors Photograph

The Happendance organization has three main branches -- Happendance School, the Happendance To Go outreach program, and the Lansing-based Happendance Professional Company. In addition, Happendance partners with Lansing Community College and other area organizations every summer to sponsor the Community Dance Project. From humble beginnings, Happendance has grown to become a true cultural treasure of Michigan and a Lansing area tradition.

In June 1976, Happendance spontaneously originated as a collaboration of local dancers and musicians who wanted to work together in a creative setting. Under the leadership of Diane Newman, this non-profit 501(c)(3) company received initial assistance from the Greater Lansing Area Dance Council to sponsor a series of free outdoor concerts, performed on the banks of the Red Cedar River at MSU, for all who might "happen" upon the group dancing near the river walkway -- hence, the company's name. For over a decade, "Summer Concerts" of light-hearted, fast-paced contemporary dance delighted thousands of audience members, tripling annual attendance. However, faced with funding difficulties and competition from the Michigan Festival for its early August dates, the Happendance summer tradition ended in 1989.

While its free outdoor concerts were reaching out to new audiences, Happendance was quick to add a more formal "Winter Concert" series, to expand and develop audience interest in dance. To this day, these winter concerts take full advantage of the technical capabilities of theater settings -- stage lighting, enhanced sound reproduction, subtle staging, better dance surfaces.

Since 1977, the company has performed in a variety of local theatrical venues -- school auditoriums, Impression 5 Museum, Wharton Center Pasant Theatre, Fairchild Auditorium, Riverwalk Theater, Hannah Community Center, and Dart Auditorium -- featuring their own works and those of notable guest artists. In addition, Happendance has for many years been in the Michigan Humanities Council's adjudicated Touring Arts Directory, and performed in Michigan venues and nearby states. Highlights of recent years include an interdisciplinary concert series at Links Hall in Chicago, a series of Isadora Duncan dances at the Detroit Institute of Art, commissioned works for Lansing's Sesquicentennial celebrations, and a collaborative concert with Lansing Symphony Orchestra.

Today's Happendance is a professional company of dancers, choreographers and teachers who are well-known for their original concerts, innovative school programs, and outstanding instruction in which dance is emphasized as an element of life experience and learning. While proud of the professional stature of its dance artists, Happendance continues to embrace its exuberant logo-mascot "Cosmo," who expresses the spirit of dance which resides in every person.

Our mission: To stimulate support for the art of dance through performances and educational programs. To broaden the accessibility of dance to a diverse community and promote dance for lifelong physical and mental fitness.

Happendance is supported in part by grants from:

Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs


Arts Council of Greater Lansing