Ann Moody Sill Dance Studio marks 47 years in Fort Bend County
She’s been teaching ballet, tap and jazz for nearly 50 years, and Ann Moody Sill still loves every minute of dance.
“I grew up dancing my entire life – since I was three,” she said. “I started dancing with the Virgie Lee Emmonds School of Dance and loved it. I danced with Miss Virgie for about 20 years; solos, groups, shows. I also taught for her when I was in high school.”
Her first teacher also taught Sill many things besides her first ballet and jazz steps.
“I learned a lot from her – about running a business, about how to treat people,” she said.
The same teacher inspired her to eventually open her own dance studio – Ann Moody Sill Dance Studio in Sugar Land.
Her first dance studio was in a building that had previously been a 7-Eleven store. With her parents support, Sill started her small business with a $1,500 loan in1971.
“Oh, they were very supportive – they were behind me always, Sill said of her parents. “My mom and dad helped me fix up the inside of the studio, and set up what I needed. Then I did some local advertising. I was there at my very first studio for five years, and in 1976 we built our next studio in Alief. We stayed there for 31 years, and then sold it and built our current studio in Sugar Land in 2002.”
The dance lessons Sill took as a child are what she teaches at her dance studio today.
“Ballet, tap, jazz, musical theatre, point, hip-hop, we do almost every type of dancing,” she said.
Over the years, her dance company performances have shown up in many areas in and around Fort Bend County.
“Our Christmas show is annually at various places in the community – nursing homes in Sugar Land and Katy, and just about every shopping mall center around the city at one time or another – in Cinco Ranch, Sugar Land, Memorial City,” she said.
People of all ages learn the art of dance with Sill and her staff, with youngest student dancer being 2 years old, the oldest in high school. Interestingly, Sill’s inspired teaching style brings many of her students back years later as dance teachers for the studio.
“The majority of my staff has always been ‘home grown’ teachers. I’ve always liked to use former students and hire them when I could because they know what I do and they know what my system is around here,” she said. “I have one instructor who has celebrated teaching with me for 25 years, and I started teaching her when she was about 5 years old. Another teacher whose been teaching with me for 16 years. They all have their own kids and now they teach for me.”
Cindy (Porter) Williams was one of those students. She was taught by Sill from ages 5-18 and then began teaching at the studio in 1992.
“She has made such an impact on my life from how to raise my children, the importance of church and God in my life, and of course, set the highest standard on what is proper in the dance studio world,” Williams said. “She has always presented any performance in the most professional way possible. I will always look up to and admire her for all that she stands for, and with tears in my eyes for this phase that has to come, I will always be a Miss Ann Dancer! I will always strive to make her proud as I pass along all that she has taught me to all that I continue to teach.”
“I started dancing with Ann at the age of 6 and continued all the way through my senior year in high school,” said Jennifer Autrey. “When I graduated from college she asked me to begin teaching on her staff and I have been on the studio staff since 2003.
“Through AMSDS I have had so many wonderful experiences from recitals to competitions to performing all over the city of Houston during the Christmas season. AMSDS is a place that celebrates the art of dance and giving back to the community. The studio is about so much more than being the best technically, although we have some amazing dancers and some who have gone on to professional careers. Ann fosters a family atmosphere that builds confidence in students regardless of their natural talent for dance. She encourages a feeling of family in the studio making it a warm and amazing place to grow as a dancer.”
Besides her love of teaching, other highlights of Sill’s career include picking out music and costumes for dance events. In June of this year, Sill will retire while doing what she loves best: teaching producing and orchestrating dance recitals.
“We have had a recital every other year at the Wortham Center. It’s always been a very big event,” she said.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Harvey destroyed the Wortham Center. Its reopening is scheduled for September.
“It breaks my heart, because we have had performances there for 28 years, and I was looking forward to having my final performance there,” she said.
Still, Sill is pleased with the alternate venue, the Stafford Centre, which is scheduled to host the event.
As retirement nears, Sill recalls every aspect of her career as a good decision, and inevitably credits her first dance teacher, Miss Virgie.
“She was very loving and giving to her students and their parents. It was a positive, wholesome experience growing up and I loved it and loved dancing. I just decided to do what she did,” Sill said.
As she has done for the past 47 years, Sill continues to uphold the traditions she herself was taught from her first dance lesson.
Ann Moody Sill School of Dance
Address: 1110 S. Highway 6, Sugar Land