Nonprofit dance program “Happendance” set to perform at the Wharton Center

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Happendance, a nonprofit dance studio in Okemos, Michigan, will perform at the Wharton Center in East Lansing on March 19 and March 21, part of a two-year collaboration with the FRIB. 

Happendance logo via

The organization’s staff said it has provided a safe space for many students and families.  Colleen Erpelding, Director of Education Services, said the staff is specialized to achieve this safe space.

“We have staff who are training to work with those with special needs as well as those who are dedicated to help create a culture of inclusivity and equity,” she said.  “Those who train with us are families for life and we have several who bring their children to us after they have left our doors as students.”

The organization hosts events and performances each month.  These events are a way the program allows families to get together, ask questions and showcase the purpose of the program.  The organization does a number of community outreach events and it uses grant funding to provide services to schools and families, said Erpelding. 

They will have a mini-performance by Impulse, one of their student companies on March 28, during one of their Social Saturday events.

Their annual spring concert will be held at Eastern High School in Lansing from May 15 to Mat 17, and it will be a performance by students from Happendance School.

Upcoming spring Happendance events. Infographic by Lauren Buchko

Happendance was founded in 1976 by Diane Newman, originally as a program focused on small and private instruction.

Erpelding said it’s grown from where it began to a school with multi-year curricula with offerings such as modern dance, ballet, rhythm tap, jazz and hip-hop.

“With its diversified offerings, it’s taken on the role of community partner with school districts and organizations,” she said.  “Our mission is to serve, to help individuals and families create their best life, and we do that through dance.”

Erpelding also heads the Education Exchange part of the program, which is a catalyst for community partnership. 

“We are able to stay immersed in the community and its needs because of our corporate sponsorships and donations for our programming,” she said. “This is an ever-evolving organization, and we strive to become better each year.”

Erpelding said Happendance values being a “home case” and compass for those who need a path, professionally or personally.

The organization hosts multiple events each month.  These events range from performances to social gatherings. 

“The last Saturday of the month is ‘Social Saturday’, which is a great way our families get to know one another and bond,” Erpelding said. “We also host events where we are on-site to converse with families, answer questions, and talk about life.”

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