Tiffany Glenn, a dancer with Ballet San Jose for several years, passed away at age 33 on June 18 after a six-year battle with cancer. Dennis Nahat, the longtime Artistic Director of the ballet company until earlier this year, shares his thoughts on his close friend Tiffany who “came to San Jose in 2001 and stole everyone’s heart.”
I first saw Tiffany in the Sumer of 2000 at an in-studio performance on 57th Street, where young choreographers were showing their new works. My nephew who was teaching dance there at the time thought it could be interesting for me to see and invited me over… Tiffany caught my eye the moment she entered, as she did her jeté right out onto the space. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her and it was plain to see she was the only trained classical dancer among them. Her eyes were bright and smile infectious. She took command of the space and ate it up with an eager and sweet personality. After the showing, I went back-stage to see the dancers and went right over to Tiffany, introduced myself and told her that I thought she was terrific, then asked whether she might be interested in dancing professionally with the company I had just moved to San Jose, California from Cleveland, Ohio. With her famous smile and warm inviting personality, she said, “Wow, I’m overwhelmed that you’d ask me Mr. Nahat! Yes, I’m very interested…” She came to San Jose in 2001 and stole everyone’s heart. From ballets that were choreographed for her to works that she stepped into with gusto, Tiffany was a winner at every performance. She never said, “No, I can’t do that…” or complained; instead she asked for more and asked if she could please come to the studio to learn something she wasn’t cast in…She was the kindest and one of the most giving dancers I’ve known. I always told Tiffany to come in and do anything she thought she wanted to tackle.
The eminent American Modern Dancer and choreographer, Donald McKayle, took her to heart and cast her in principal roles in the large number of ballets he gave me for our company. The renown Flemming Flindt thought of her as a savant, dancing in his RED SHOES, TOREADOR, and OUT OF AFRICA… She ran swiftly and gracefully through Balanchine’s SERENADE and attacked THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS with strength and meaning. She delighted in her pink tutu, glistening in WHO CARES? When I staged GRADUATION BALL, Tiffany was the perfect Mistress of Ceremonies, and in MIDDLE KINGDOM ANCIENT CHINA, a Ferocious Tigress! Her cheerful and all eyes Maria in THE NUTCRACKER was an utter charmer… I always can spot a great performer by their eyes and oh, Tiffany had the eyes and the light that surrounded them. She tore through QUICKSILVER like lightning, tumbled through ONTOGENY like an acrobat… She was the supreme sylph in Michel Fokine’s LES SYLPHIDES, then turned around and did a tour de force performance as a Wili in GISELLE. All while still ill…and without a single grievance.
Tiffany came to work for me at the Usdan Center for the Creative and Performing Arts on Long Island, NY where she taught ballet each day for 7 weeks in sweltering summer heat in outdoor studios… she loved it… She danced for the students and then returned to perform there yet again. While performing in GRAND PAS DE DIX in the second show of a morning assembly, her partner could not finish the entire ballet due to exhaustion, an injury and a sudden loss of energy from heat and humidity in the outdoor theater. I could not cut the music in time but Tiffany took on the Pas de Deux, did her own solo and the entire coda where she danced the male and female parts. As she spun around the stage and did her flying jeté – with her pointe shoes fraying apart from the humidity and wear from the performance she just given 15 minutes earlier – the audience of over 800 cheered her as if she was a super-star (which of course, she was). She loved those kids and they knew it. The following year she was unable to teach and all the students came running asking, “Where is Tiffany????”
My last choreography for Tiffany, (where she danced so beautifully with other cherished dancers she so loved), was Opera San Jose’s magnificent production of IDOMENEO, where again, her interests did not stop with the dances only. This opera was a treasure for Tiffany to discover in a million ways. She got into everything and wanted to know all about it from every angle.
She was an honorable union representative, always thinking kindly of management capabilities and never forgetting what her colleagues must have to do their best work, offering positive and genuine comments at all meetings, endeavoring always to effect positive results.
Years ago Tiffany gave me a small cactus as a gift, which I placed outside and where a deer soon came along and chewed it to pieces. I was prompted to through it away as others thought it would never survive, but on second thought, tried moving it instead to another location. I gave it a little water each day and spoke to it calling it Tiffany. Today it is the TIFFANY CACTUS, flourishing and stronger than any other plant around it! I always loved that little plant because of its ability to come back and stay strong… Like Tiffany, it shines today. Tiffany will always shine for me and remain one of the brightest spots of memory in my life. I was lucky to have been able to tell her so.
I’m unspeakably saddened by our great loss. I send my love and gratitude to her family for bringing her to us and for supporting her all her life.
Tiffany Glenn will always be one of the brightest forces in life I have ever known.
I love you Tiffany.
~Dennis Nahat, June 21, 2012