Obituary: Tiffany Glenn, 1979-2012
A longtime dancer with Ballet San Jose
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by Staff Report on Jun 22, 2012
Tiffany's unwavering determination was supported by her strong faith and powerful Buddhist practice.
Tiffany Glenn, 33, a longtime dancer with Ballet San Jose, succumbed to cancer after a six-year battle with the disease. She continued to dance throughout her treatment. Her family released this obituary today.
“Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. No matter what happens.”
—Happiness In This World, Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, page 681
Tiffany T. Glenn was born February 25, 1979 on Hahn Air Base in Lautzenhausen, West Germany. Shortly thereafter, Tiffany’s mother returned to Washington DC to continue her professional dance career with baby Tiffany in tow. It was the many hours spent in the studio with her mother where Tiffany’s passion for dance was ignited. Following in her mother’s bold footsteps, Tiffany formally began her ballet training at the tender age of four at the acclaimed Jones-Haywood School of Ballet under the tutelage of Doris Jones. Tiffany honed her craft and would become one of Jones-Haywood’s shining alumni.
Tiffany attended the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia and was a graduate of the Wilson International Studies Program at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington DC. An eternal optimist, Tiffany’s compassion for her classmates earned her the respect and admiration of her peers. A varsity cheerleader, DC pageant winner and NAACP ACT-SO medalist are a few of the hallmarks of Tiffany’s high school career. A lover of French culture, music and photography, Tiffany was passionate about cultivating her creativity.
Tiffany knew by the time she was thirteen that she wanted to become a professional ballerina. After a life-changing trip to Cannes, France where she studied ballet at the Rosella Hightower Centre de Danse Internationale, Tiffany’s career path was certain. Upon graduation from high school in 1997 she left Washington DC for New York City. She studied and performed with The Ailey School and the Dance Theatre of Harlem second company. Despite professional rejection and discouragement from her pursuit of professional ballet, Tiffany knew that she could not deny her destiny. With a relentless determination she trained for four years before catching the eye of Dennis Nahat, Artistic Director of Ballet San Jose. Impressed with Tiffany’s brilliant technique and infectious presence, Dennis offered Tiffany a contract on the spot. Tiffany accepted and had finally achieved her goal of signing a professional ballet contract.
With Ballet San Jose Tiffany especially enjoyed working with Donald McKayle in his productions of District Storyville, Death and Eros, and House of Tears. Added to her extensive Ballet San Jose repertoire were lead roles in George Balanchine’s Who Cares?, Léonide Massine’s Gâité Parissienne, Michel Folkine’s Les Sylphides, the role of the Mistress of Ceremonies in David Lichine’s Graduation Ball, “Softly as I leave You” in Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs, Flemming Flindt’s Red Shoes—Legs of Fire, and a stunning performance debut in his of Out of Africa. Under the direction of Dennis Nahat, Tiffany also performed major roles in his ballets including Romeo and Juliet, the character of Maria in The Nutcracker, the role of Moyna in Giselle, the Tigress in Middle Kingdom—Ancient China, and Rosika in Coppélia. She of course appeared in The Firebird before embarking on a five-week, eight-city Goodwill Tour of China. In 2009 Tiffany adding choreography to her long list of credits at Ballet San Jose when she created Legends, a world-premiere contemporary three-part ballet set to songs by John Legend. Tiffany would dance with Ballet San Jose for 11 seasons, eventually rising to the rank of soloist, becoming one of a handful of African-American women to do so with a major ballet company.
Tiffany’s unwavering determination was supported by her strong faith and powerful Buddhist practice. Tiffany was introduced to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism in 1995 by her best friend. Nichiren Buddhism teaches the practitioner how to transform their negative karma, unlock their true potential, and achieve ultimate happiness. She was intrigued by the practice and received her Gohonzon in 1997. Tiffany’s practice quickly became the foundation of her life, allowing her to face obstacles with joy and maintain a life condition that would positively impact the many colleagues, friends and associates she would meet.
In 2006, Tiffany’s faith would be challenged when she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 27 and underwent a mastectomy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and finally reconstructive surgery. With grace and poise Tiffany waged a ferocious battle against the disease, using her Buddhist practice to turn poison into medicine. After five months she returned to the stage to perform in Nahat’s Blue Suede Shoes while continuing her radiation treatments. Her courage and strength enabled her to overcome the disease and forge an indestructible faith. Tiffany’s cancer would return in 2010. Undefeated, she determined to re-focus her Buddhist practice and never give up. Tiffany continued to fight with the courage of 1000 lions and was able to keep her incurable cancer at bay for two years. After a final season with Ballet San Jose, Tiffany returned briefly to Memphis to work with Collage Dance Collective before returning to Washington DC to be closer to her beloved family. Tiffany would transition on June 18, 2012 at home surrounded by the love of her family, friends and faith community.
Tiffany inspired and encouraged countless students, colleagues, SGI members and friends. Her gracious spirit, heart-warming smile and radiant light are just a few of the qualities all who knew her will remember her by. She left an indelible mark on each person she met, having the special ability to make everyone in her life feel like her best friend.
She is survived by her mother Tammy Hurt and father Kermit Williams, both of Washington DC; step-father Kendrick Odom of Adelphi Maryland; grandmother, Mary Odom of Washington DC; one sister, Krystal Odom of Adelphi, Maryland; two brothers, Michael Odom and Kermit O. Williams (Ayanna) both of Adelphi, Maryland; a special nephew Kahlil Davis; a special cousin Shannel Lomax; 4 aunts, 3 uncles and a host of additional cousins and friends.