Anna Glass: Meet Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Michigander

Dance Theatre of Harlem Executive Director Anna Glass knows the value of maintaining a culture. Though she has lived in New York City for 20 years, her Michigan roots run deep, connecting both her and her company to Detroit.

“I love Michigan, I love Detroit,” she said. “It brings me great joy to bring a company that means so much to me to my home town and my home state.”

Glass grew up in Saginaw and studied ballet at the nearby Flint Institute of Music. She later attended high school at Interlochen Arts Academy and Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills. With her family still living in Metro Detroit, Glass said she comes home often either to visit or to vacation in northern Michigan. She’s even instilling Michigan pride in her daughter, who comes to Michigan every summer to spend time with her grandparents.

“New Yorkers say I’m too polite, and they know I’m not from New York,” she said. “I consider myself a Michigander.”

Embracing one’s heritage is a value Glass shares with both DTH and MOT. Like MOT, DTH prioritizes making the arts inclusive, accessible and reflective of a diverse population.

“We are an organization that believes in creating our own framework,” Glass said. “You don’t have to leave your culture behind to be part of this art form.”

That culture is one that takes traditional ballet training to perform works that represent a variety of experiences. This year’s program includes “Harlem On My Mind,” a beautiful love letter to Harlem set to music by Wynton Marsalis, Count Basie and Chris Botti, and “This Bitter Earth,” a sublime ballet by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon set to music by Dinah Washington and Max Richter. It also includes “Brahms Variations,” a neo-classical work where the court of Louis XIV meets Harlem swag, and “Coming Together,” a thrilling work by celebrated choreographer Nacho Duato.

“We represent 21st-century ballet,” Glass said. “We want people to see themselves on stage and see their stories on stage.”

Glass’s Michigan dance training briefly led her to a career on stage, but she added that her upbringing included extraordinary influencers who affected her choices. Those choices included studying history at Oberlin College and law at the University of Dayton and working at performing arts organizations like Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and the Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts before eventually becoming the executive director at DTH.

As the company makes its sixth visit to the Detroit Opera House this spring, Glass said she noticed first-hand the significant changes the city has undergone.

“Detroit is going through such an amazing transformation, you so want to be a part of it,” she said. “This is my way of being a part of it. I love it.”

Dance Theatre of Harlem will perform at the Detroit Opera House March 24-25. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets: