Dance teacher inspired hundreds of youngsters

Judy Silvester
Judy Silvester

The funeral is due to take place next Thursday (July 11) of internationally respected dance teacher Judy Silvester, who inspired generations of Sheffield youngsters.

Known to everyone as ‘Miss Judy’, she took over the Constance Grant Dance Centre from her mother and over the last 50 years has trained thousands of pupils, many of whom went on to become stars in their own right.

Judy Silvester (centre) with her dancers

Judy Silvester (centre) with her dancers

She also maintained her role on the world stage – she was visiting Cyprus in her capacity as senior examiner with the International Dance Teachers’ Association when she died suddenly last week, aged 75.

Miss Judy, born in 1937, was a dancer all her life, taught first by her mother, then at the Bush Davies Theatre College in London and the Lehmiski School of Ballet, Birmingham.

At 12 she performed as principal dancer at Blackpool’s Tower Ballroom and at 17 one of her first jobs was as a redcoat at Butlins holiday camp in Filey.

On completion of her training, she performed as a dancer and singer in cabaret and professional theatre. In her 20s, with dance partner Paul Beeton, she took the title of British Dance Exhibition Champion for three consecutive years.

In the 1950s she took the helm of the Constance Grant centre, Psalter Lane, and devoted herself to its work.

Today the school has nearly 700 pupils, from tots to adults, and its regular shows at Sheffield City Hall play to sell-out audiences.

Judy also threw herself into her role with the international association, serving as its president in 1992.

Holding he highest qualifications in all genres of theatre and ballroom dancing, she coached, examined, directed and choreographed around the world.

She also served on the board of directors and as chair of the Miss Dance of Great Britain organising committee, bringing this prestigious event to Sheffield until it outgrew the City Hall.

Judy was actively involved with local theatre companies including Teacher Operatics, Harlequins, Roses and Denys Edwards Players. But her key role was as director and choreographer of the Croft House Theatre Company, with which she worked for over 50 years.

A spokesperson said: “Her commitment and passion were legendary and she became an inspiration to us all… She was able to move with ease from the highest level of professional dance training to gently coaching those less able to deliver a performance, with confidence and aplomb.”

The Constance Grant Dance Centre will continue, under the care of Miss Judy’s daughters, Karen Siddall and Tracey Southern. A note on the website this week said simply: “As a mark of respect the dance school will be open as normal.”

Meanwhile messages of sympathy and tributes have poured in.

Daughter Karen said: “We’ve had hundreds of cards and the Facebook page has just gone mad. We’re all going to miss her. She wasn’t just a professional woman, she was all about family.”

Colleague Kath Kenyon added: “Behind all the glitz and the glamour which was a big part of Judy’s life we must also remember she was an ordinary fun-loving girl… a good cook and a brilliant host who loved her family and adored her grandchildren.

“Judy was special in so many ways and we shall all miss her fun, her kindness and her company.”