Brenda Garrett-Glassman

Dance Theatre of Harlem (1973-1977)

Brenda Garrett-Glassman in Rhythmetron. Photo via Dance Theatre of Harlem archives, Marbeth.
Brenda Garrett-Glassman, born in 1955 to Guyanese parents, began her training at the Joyce Butler School of Dance when she was eight years old. Though many wanted Garrett-Glassman to go into “cabaret” performing, Butler recognized her talent, knowing that Garrett-Glassman would have to find work in another country due to her race. At 16 years old, Garrett-Glassman performed to an audience that included the director of the Royal Academy of Dance, who then had her audition for the Royal Ballet School (Bourne 206). She then became the first Black student at the Royal Ballet Upper School, where she studied from 1971 to 1973. Garrett-Glassman was told that she would not be hired by the main company because she was black. The school also paid for her classes at The Place, where she took contemporary dance because the RBS believed that if she were to become a professional dancer, it would have to be in genres outside of classical ballet (Bourne 217).
The year she finished her training, Garrett-Glassman joined Dance Theatre of Harlem, where she was a member of the original DTH casts of Geoffrey Holder’s Dougla (1974) and Talley Beatty’s Caravansarai (1974).
Glassman performed dancing roles in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Streets Ahead (1986). In 1985, she was cast as a “Maiden” and “Principal Dancer” in the original London production of Mutiny!.
In 2005, when Garrett-Glassman’s first ballet teacher Joyce Butler passed away, Butler left her West London-based school to Garrett-Glassman and fellow former student Vanessa Hoskins-McTaggart. Together they co-owned and taught at the school until Garrett-Glassman left in 2013.

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