Remembering Brenna

Please add your thoughts and memories of Brenna in the comment section below.

On Thursday, November 5, 2020, beloved Glenwood Dance Studio teacher Brenna Pierson-Tucker passed away. She died peacefully at home with her dog Sophie at her side. She is survived by her husband, Chris Tucker, who is also a dancer and co-founder with Brenna of Esoteric Dance Company, her parents and siblings. We are all saddened by this loss.

Brenna devoted her life to the art of dance and shared her love of dance with all her students, the dance community, and anybody lucky enough to watch her perform. She brought laughter and her joyful energy to our studio and made us all feel like dancers and artists.

She first became part of our GDS family when she rented rehearsal space from us shortly after our founding in 2013, and she started teaching with us in January 2014. During her nearly seven years as a GDS teacher, she taught modern dance, all levels of ballet, as well as classical and modern partnering. She also choreographed several performance workshops for us that were presented at our annual Spring Dance Festival. During the pandemic, she started attending classes, becoming a regular in Social Dance and Sassy Heels.

This short video includes clips of Brenna in her role as GDS teacher:

You can read more about Brenna and her artistic history in this interview from 2018. You can learn more about her company, Esoteric Dance Project, here. We have also created a playlist of some of Brenna’s classes as well as works that she choreographed during her time with us.

In February 2021 we premiered a dance that was created by four of our students and choreographer Ginger Jensen to remember and celebrate the life of GDS teacher Brenna Pierson-Tucker, The dance starts with the dancers arriving one by one, like they would arrive for class, then the music starts and the move as though wanting to connect, but then being pulled back. Throughout the dance the choreography incorporates movements that Brenna used in her classes, and as each dancer does her solo section the others watched the way we often watch each other in classes, and the way Brenna would watch us to give notes and corrections. The video ends with photos of Brenna. You can watch the piece here:

Please use the comments below to share your memories and thoughts about Brenna.

23 thoughts on “Remembering Brenna

  1. Michelle Jasso November 10, 2020 / 9:46 pm

    I am so deeply saddened by this news. I took group classes with Brenna at GDS in preparation for a theatre role in which I played a ballerina, and Brenna also worked with me privately on my choreography for the role, for which I ended up winning a Jeff Award. My heart breaks for her husband and loved ones she left behind – may they find peace during this time.

    RIP Brenna and thank you.

  2. Margaret Hoover November 10, 2020 / 9:52 pm

    Brenna, Even though I only spent close to 10 minutes meeting with you in person to receive your wonderful Carrot Apple bread and Homemade Honey and Black Pepper butter from the fundraiser, I was genuinely touched with your words about missing the studio, about your positive comment on my dance participation, about how you envied the tappers who could meet at the studio, about your passion for dance and for life. How thankful I am you included a laminated copy of the recipe. I have already used the recipe for your yummy Carrot Apple bread and will continue to remember you.

    • Katie DeSalvo November 12, 2020 / 10:58 am

      What intention Brenna infused in every step of that Carrot Apple bread process for you! This is a beautiful testament to her innate kindness and care of others ❤ Thank you for sharing, Margaret! -Katie from tap

  3. Angela Juister November 11, 2020 / 2:01 pm

    I had the pleasure of taking ballet class with Brenna a couple of times and she was a wonderful teacher. She always made me feel comfortable and challenged me to better my technique in unique and creative ways. I am so sorry to hear of her passing and my condolences to her family. RIP

  4. Rose E Mulvey November 11, 2020 / 7:52 pm

    I am so heartbroken to learn of the untimely passing of Brenna. She was an artist in every sense of the word that extended to all facets of the dance world and beyond. She was a generous and gracious teacher that regarded her students as fellow dancers/artists. Her thoughtful lesson plans and weekly brain teasers pushed us to be better than we ever thought imaginable. I was a regular student of hers for several years and in that time I was lucky enough to also call her a friend. These words seem so disjointed and inadequate to express the deep sadness felt by her passing. However, I find comfort in the fact that the movement she imparted is forever in my body and it has and will continue to influence my dancing. Rest easy dear Brenna. Much love and condolences to her beloved husband, Chris, and all her family and friends.


  5. Rebecca Crystal November 12, 2020 / 11:11 am

    I am so shaken and saddened by this news about Brenna. The first thing I noticed about her, when taking her classes at Glenwood, was her unique and quirky style. Her combinations–even in classes that were not technically “advanced”–were so challenging to me because of her unique way of moving. Her choreography simultaneously flowed together but was also unexpected and surprising. Her way of teaching made everyone feel welcome, whether one had professional dance experience or not. We lost not only a fantastic artist but also a kind and generous person. Sending my love to everyone who knew and loved her. –Becca Crystal

    • Becca Crystal November 14, 2020 / 10:02 am

      There is something else I remembered I have to mention! I was always so impressed when I took class from Brenna, because she always had individual corrections for each student. I couldn’t believe that she was able to count out/call out the combo while watching each dancer carefully enough to give a correction. As a dance teacher it is something I strive to do but cannot match Brenna’s level of attentiveness.

  6. Ohran November 15, 2020 / 5:31 pm

    I am deeply saddened to hear this news. I spent one summer last year to learn with Brenna for a ballet workshop. I immediately noticed that she was very attentive to each student and I felt already very welcomed by her even as a new student. At every class we worked together, she was patient, devoted and very humble. I really enjoyed to learn from her that I decided to go to some of her late evening classes, often knowing that I wouldn’t be able to find a parking spot and I might have to just return home after all. For our ballet workshop, she handmade this accessory piece that we needed as part of the costume for everyone, which really impressed me because she really didn’t have to. I still have the piece and will keep it as a memory of her. It really reminds me of how kind and thoughtful person she was. Brenna, I will also remember you every time I work on my ballet arm/hand positions. Thank you for everything you have taught me in ballet. I will really miss you…Rest in peace. Love, Ohran.

  7. Lisa Frye November 16, 2020 / 11:49 am

    Very very sad.
    I attended the Monday night ballet class for only a short period of time, but I loved Brenna’s personal critiques and greatly appreciated her encouraging emails when I broke my foot. I think of her Port de bras quizzes and how she called us “Dancers”. She knew immediately what were my strengths and weaknesses. I had the great opportunity to participate in Brenna’s choreographed ballet of La Bayadere for a studio showcase. She wrote out every step for each of us and made each of us sleeves to finish off our costumes, which I still have. I appreciated her patience and tireless efforts of reviewing the steps over and over again for me. At our final rehearsal, she gave me a big hug for encouragement. I send my deepest condolences to her husband Chris, family, friends and students. She will be greatly missed. Every time I hear La Bayadere “Entrance of the Shades”, I will think of Brenna. – Lisa Frye

  8. Megan Geigner November 16, 2020 / 2:37 pm

    I am very grateful to have had a year taking ballet with Brenna. I can’t believe she is gone. I am still so shocked, and I find myself thinking of her husband so frequently. She was a joy! I will really miss her. She was one of my more positive experiences taking ballet.

  9. Robin Pokorski November 16, 2020 / 5:06 pm

    Virtual classes meant that I was finally able to become a regular at Brenna’s modern and ballet classes over the past few months, after doing her modern performance workshop in 2018. Even though I had so little modern experience, Brenna helped me by explaining things in ballet terms that made sense to me as soon as she figured out that was what would help me understand (“No, Robin, it’s not a turned-out attitude a la seconde, it’s a fugly, lifted, turned-in version of that, like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant!”). When I mentioned that I am an academic who likes reading about the history and the hows and whys of things in order to understand them, she sent me links to articles and books. She paid me one of the kindest and most meaningful dance-related compliments I have ever received, told me to be proud of what I had accomplished, and gave me corrections that I am so sorry she won’t be able to see me keep chipping away at. And certainly, every time I do a Limon-style swing, Horton sides, or anything with a flat back, I’ll be thinking of Brenna.

    I started taking classes at Glenwood in October 2015. Even though I didn’t become a regular student of Brenna’s until only recently, I never knew GDS without her and her fierce belief in everything our little studio community stands for.

    My deepest condolences to Chris, the rest of Brenna’s family, her friends, and everyone else who knew her.

  10. Joanne Kiley November 16, 2020 / 10:00 pm

    Chris and all of Brenna’s family and friends, and of course, Sophie,

    Thank you for sharing Brenna with Glenwood Dance Studio. She was such a treasure and will be deeply missed.

    To me, Brenna meant sparks of joy and frivolity. She meant patient and creative problem solving with my uncooperative body. She gave her students fun terms and imagery to get us to “coupe scoop-ay” or “when in doubt, degage it out.” Selfishly, I want another class or even just an adagio, but I will cherish every class I did take with her over the years and keep dancing and remembering all of her tips and thoughtful instruction.

    Brenna loved the beauty that dance could create and she had a passion to share it with the world. I’m so glad she did! We are all better because of her.

    My heart goes out to everyone who knew her. May we all strive to continue to dance in our bodies and our hearts with the beauty and grace she taught us.

  11. Ali Thomas-Geujen November 16, 2020 / 11:44 pm

    I first met Brenna when she substituted a contemporary class one Sunday. From the opening combination, I was hooked. From there I started taking her Monday night modern class which I looked forward to every week. It was so obvious how much planning Brenna put into every class and she always set her combos to just the right music. She introduced me to the band Glass Animals and I still think of her everything I hear one of their songs. She had high expectations of her students in the best way, and in exactly the way I wanted as an adult finding my way back to dance and who also wanted to feel like she was capable of becoming a better dancer. Her combos were challening and fun in a way that you had to focus so hard that you lost yourself in the movement and in her class, and whatever else was going on that week in my life faded away for that hour and a half. She sized me up right away and helped me see my body and how I move in a way that no dance teacher ever had. She helped me understand how to be more aware of my movements and made me feel like with her help I could be great. I am so honored that I got to spend all those weeks in her small, intimate class learning from her and trying my best to keep up with her beautiful choreography. I can so easily picture her dancing at Glenwood in the particularly graceful and powerful way she moved, and I will forever cherish those memories. She was made to dance. I am keeping her husband Chris, her Glenwood family, and all her family and friends close to my heart. I will forever miss you, Brenna.

  12. YoYo November 16, 2020 / 11:50 pm

    I was tremendously shocked and struck by an e-mail about her departure. Completely speechless, I had to keep asking myself why, why?
    I only took several sessions of Brenna’s class, mostly ballet and modern dance once. Even with those limited interactions, she left a strong imprint in me. As for me, Brenna was a symbol of Glenwood Dance Studio physically and spiritually.

    Brenna was a strict, stringent yet very gentle and kind teacher. On one hand, she reminded me of old traditional scary Russian ballet schoolteachers, on the other hand she was always caring, attentive and affectionate. She was genuinely happy and enthusiastic when she caught any small improvement I made. Yet, she might not expressively verbalize it but made sure you sense her joy. That was very special. At some point, I wanted to improve my skills to impress her.

    I also remember she always had her notes to make her classes more consistent, progressive and challenging. It always seemed her notes for her students were way more critical than a hole in her sock, which made her look more professional and genuinely cool as a dance teacher.

    While I was truly looking forward to going back to her class in studio, I was also going to take her on-line classes during this pandemic lockdown, and then I kept finding myself busy with other things all the time.

    More so than ever before, her departure was another strong reminder that we should not delay or postpone things we love and value. The moment might never come again if we don’t do it now.

    It does not take a second to think her eyes, smile, voice and her movements. Yes, there are there always, so bubbly, animated and vibrant.

    On last Sunday, I felt it was very nice to get together with a group of people in the afternoon, such as her students, ex-students from Bonn, Germany and other various places and also her colleagues and friends, and to bring each other’s fond memories of her to take our imaginary picture with her. I hope our strong collective energy and sense of loss and longing reached her then. My prayers also go for her husband and family and loved ones, Sophie included.

    I have a feeling that she would always guard and guide me when I take dance lessons, and tonight, there will be another brilliant star in the sky.


  13. Jessie LaMacchia November 16, 2020 / 11:57 pm

    Brenna was the best ballet teacher and one the most beautiful people I’ve known. Brenna had that special teacher/mentor quality that makes you want to keep coming to class, and keep doing better. She always acknowledged and celebrated progress, while also keeping it REAL when you were off (all with the greatest sense of humor and love). I keep thinking about how open and caring she was. She made me feel loved, and she helped me believe in myself when I needed it. She would listen to every concern I had in dance, and follow up with thoughtful messages whenever she found something that made her think of me. She often brought in hand-me-down leotards for me to take home. We took the train together most nights after class, and that’s when I got to know about her love for Chris, Sophie, her family, her craft, and the Esoteric Dance Project. Around this time last year, she shared ideas about writing and choreographing an emotional piece for “Expectations,” a show she was producing at the time. I am grateful I was able to see her carry her vision through on stage, and was deeply moved by her performance. I was constantly impressed with her drive to make her dreams real, and in awe of how much she has accomplished.

    She expressed her love for her students often and without hesitation—especially on Zoom when we were really missing our time together in the studio. In quarantine, Brenna’s class was something I could look forward to. Many times I’ve thought, “man…when we get back in the studio we are going to have the best hug,” and I am sad that we won’t get to celebrate that moment together. Mondays will not be the same anymore. Still, I will always carry a part of her with me—in my movement, in my thoughts, and in my heart. I feel so lucky for my time with her.

    Sending all my love to Chris and Brenna’s family, the Glenwood dance community, and everyone who knew her.

  14. Joyce November 17, 2020 / 10:44 pm

    Oh Brenna, you are dearly missed!

    I haven’t been able to find the right words to describe the amount of sadness I felt when I heard of Brenna’s passing. I sincerely hope she is at peace and free of all earthly bounds.

    Brenna was one of the most beautiful human beings on this planet, inside and out.
    I had always wanted to join Brenna’s modern class because anytime we’d meet whether it was during showcases, her subbing or even just social events, she had the most calming way about her that just drew you in.
    I wasn’t able to make it to the in-person classes on Mondays due to work and was so, so excited to finally join modern virtually.
    These past few months taking class with Brenna have been the most fun, challenging and supportive and I will always hold them close to my heart.
    I regret missing a few classes the last couple of weeks because my of own health issues and I just deeply regret not being able to be in Brenna’s presence anymore.
    Brenna had such a bright light and such a big heart and gave herself and her love freely.

    I feel so blessed to have had the chance to spend time with her.

    From the bottom of my heart I send all my love and support to Chris, Sophie and Brenna’s family and friends.

  15. Erin Luboff November 20, 2020 / 6:34 pm

    My first Brenna experience was in the summer of 2019, when we did La Bayadere for our performance workshop. It was an ambitious work to set on us in a matter of weeks, but she had every faith that we could do it, and it was knowing that she believed in us that helped me believe that I could do it. It was around the same time that I started taking classes with her, and I got to know her for her unique teaching style, her sense of humor, and her kind heart.

    We had planned to restage La Bayadere the following spring, but due to the pandemic, those plans were derailed. However, in recent months, Brenna had expressed the hope that we would be able to do so one day. I wish she’d had more time. I wish we had more time with her, but it was a true gift to have the time we had to experience her talent, her creativity, and her kindness, and we will miss her.

  16. Sarah Clark December 12, 2020 / 7:52 pm

    Brenna’s passing has left a huge hole in our hearts. Brenna was especially loved because she sincerely believed in our dancing and always encouraged us to do our best.

    As a teacher, she went above and beyond. For example, last summer she challenged us to perform a 9-minute rendition of the Kingdom of the Shades scene from La Bayadère. From the beginning, she came prepared to teach performance workshop with notes on every formation and timing for the whole choreography. While the piece was difficult to be sure, she pushed us to keep going and give it our all. Whenever we had questions or suggestions, she respected our opinions and discussed solutions with us. When it was time to assemble our costumes for the in-studio performance, she even went so far as to lend us a few of hers, so we wouldn’t have to buy our own white leotards on such short notice. This level of commitment and resect can be rare for adult dancers to find in a teacher, and it’s one of the many reasons I admired and appreciated Brenna so much.

    Her commitment to the dancers and the studio extended beyond classes. At our last spring showcase (2019), Brenna was backstage helping us get ready and giving us pep talks. I felt truly looked-after in a way that I haven’t felt since I used to compete. It was like she was our collective dance mom, rooting us on. And what’s more – I was so excited to be given the opportunity to choreograph bows, but because my music editing skills were limited and I was rushed for time, my cut of the music was messy. Brenna and Chris thoughtfully touched up the song in time for the show and even offered to show me how to do it. And not only that, despite her already-busy schedule, Brenna still made time to support the studio fundraisers and celebrate after the shows.

    We were truly blessed to have Brenna in our lives.

    Sending lots of love to Chris, Brenna’s friends and family, and to the Glenwood dance community. Brenna will be missed but not forgotten.

  17. Sandra Kaufmann December 28, 2020 / 8:53 am

    Such devestating news! I had no idea that the world had lost the light that was Brenna! Oh, this is so sad. I am sorry to hear this and send heartfelt condolensces to Chris!

  18. Thatuntitledproject February 18, 2021 / 3:10 pm

    I’m better with movement than I am with words so I’ll keep it brief. Brenna was one of the people who really made me appreciate my Chicago dance community. We’re very different dancers, teachers, and choreographers, but are very similar in our pursuit for true, free expression. I will always appreciate Brenna’s sincerity and the courage to dig deeper than surface-level whether it’s while dancing, speaking, or just being. I am grateful for her example.

  19. Maria Balata February 20, 2021 / 9:41 am

    During my very first performance workshop with Brenna I learned that she had more faith in me than I ever had in myself. I loved her ability to weave together body movements that were quirky, weird, intriguing and yet so very beautiful all at once. I often think about the time she insisted that I, a fat dancer, was completely able to do a handless flip (cartwheel, handstand sort of thing) while propping myself on another dancer. I thought she was absolutely bananas! Brenna didn’t see the limitations I saw. She assured me that it was possible for me to move my body in ways completely foreign to me. I loved that about her. She was inspiring even if at times a little frustratingly optimistic about our abilities. And in truth Brenna was often right. She provided us with a medium of expression that was unlike any other. Her choreography had depth and was sprinkled with possibilities. She raised the bar every single time!

    I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Brenna and get a little glimpse into her view of the world. Glenwood will not be the same without her but I hope that we can continue to promote her vision that dance is for every body and with a little belief in ourselves we can unlock so much beauty!

  20. Sandra Verthein February 28, 2021 / 12:02 pm

    Brenna was a hugely important person in my life. I took weekly ballet classes from her for almost seven years. She was an amazing teacher who put so much thought and care into everything she did. And she was so encouraging to us!

    There are so many things in ballet that I did — or tried to do — because of Brenna. She just always believed in me. And I knew that when I achieved some little move or managed an extra millisecond of a balance or was even just able to do a relevé again after one of my many injuries — she would notice it and celebrate it and be proud of me. And it was the true pride that you can only get from someone who knows you well enough to understand what it has taken to get to where you are.

    It makes me feel so sad to know that Brenna will not be there to see me continue to develop as a dancer, to share my triumphs and struggles, to be part of my ballet journey, or to finish her own life’s journey which I know would have been full of so many wonderful things.

    There is an empty place in my heart where Brenna should be.

  21. Soledad Adrine Muhammad June 2, 2021 / 11:36 am

    I used to take Brenna’s ballet classes. She really helped reintroduce me to ballet after I took a long break from it. She was super positive and gave combinations that really challenged me. She’s the reason why I now use my hands to learn new ballet combinations. I am still in shock and was really looking forward to taking ballet with her again but I’m sad that I can’t. Whenever I think of Glenwood Dance Studio I think of her.

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