Former Griffin Middle School students help teacher’s dreams dance to life
by Sally Litchfield
June 28, 2014 08:41 PM | 2072 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sissy Cantillo-Simmons gives her students high fives during the grand opening block party outside of House of Dance by Sissy. <br> Staff/C.B. Schmelter
Sissy Cantillo-Simmons gives her students high fives during the grand opening block party outside of House of Dance by Sissy.
Staff/C.B. Schmelter
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Cantillo-Simmons, right, dances along as one of her studio teachers, Damon Rain Mitchell, performs during the grand opening block party.
Cantillo-Simmons, right, dances along as one of her studio teachers, Damon Rain Mitchell, performs during the grand opening block party.
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Dancers practice before the start of the grand opening block party festivities for House of Dance by Sissy.
Dancers practice before the start of the grand opening block party festivities for House of Dance by Sissy.
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In 1998, when Sissy Cantillo-Simmons taught students Allen Floyd and Rachel Jacques, she would never have imagined that 15 years later, they would change her life. With their help, Sissy’s House of Dance became a reality.

“It has always been my dream to have my own (studio). I’ve always worked in different areas and had a clear vision of working with kids but just never had that opportunity,” said owner Cantillo-Simmons, a Powder Springs resident.

Sissy’s House of Dance provides a positive environment where dancers of all levels can expand their creative spirit and body. The studio offers dance programs from ballet, jazz, and tap to hip-hop, salsa, Bollywood and more. The studio also auditions a competition squad for dancers who want to take their skills to another level.

Cantillo-Simmons graduated from Florida State University with a degree in physical education and Spanish and a minor in dance. When she moved to Georgia, she took a job at Griffin Middle School in Smyrna where she taught Spanish. She also incorporated dance into her teaching.

“Because of my love and passion for dance, I used to incorporate the Spanish Heritage Festival into what I was teaching,” said Cantillo-Simmons, who produced an elaborate show at the school for the festival that included dance.

Floyd, Cantillo-Simmons’ Spanish student, assisted back stage with the production. “He became my right-hand man. He was in seventh grade but was way beyond his years. I gave this boy so much work backstage it wasn’t even funny — curtain, lighting, everything. Everything you could think of,” she said.

Jacques was also in the seventh grade class with Floyd.

“She was my crutch performer. One was revving it up backstage, the other was on stage,” said Cantillo-Simmons, wife of Haashin Simmons. They have one daughter, 10-year-old Ariel who attends Powder Springs Elementary School.

After Floyd and Jacques graduated from middle school, Cantillo-Simmons continued to teach Spanish and dance and remained in contact with Floyd. Cantillo-Simmons eventually focused on dance full time. She has worked in Atlanta for 15 years with eight different studios and directors. She has also done performing agency work.

After Floyd graduated from college and established a successful auction and realty company, he contacted Cantillo-Simmons about backing her dance studio dreams. Jacques, who works for Floyd as his director of operations, teamed up with him handling the marketing materials, creating the website and the building and painting of the studio.

“I don’t know how it all happened without sounding cheesy but my dreams are coming true thanks to (Floyd and Jacques) but that’s exactly how I feel. That’s it,” Cantillo-Simmons said.

“It’s a mixture of 52,000 things. It gives me a feeling of pride. Imagine an eighth-grader that left, now goes off to college and is so successful in his own man, his own life, in his own everything and on top of it helping me to accomplish my dreams. The words are hard. What a blessing. It’s huge,” Cantillo-Simmons said.

House of Dance by Sissy is at 4110 Austell-Powder Springs Road, Suite 120, Powder Springs. Visit hodbysissy.com or follow on Facebook.

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