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Inspirations Articles

Winning combo in Thiboutot: Passion for dance and teaching fuels dance studio for special needs community

Photo: Jodi Thiboutot
Jodi Thiboutot
Montreal - Sunday, November 19, 2023

Dancing joyously is part of a weekly routine for Studio J dancers, but news of the latest Inspirations Entrepreneurial Award winner will give its members one more reason to dance for joy.

After receiving several nominations, the dance school’s founder, Jodi Thiboutot, was chosen for the award, which recognizes outstanding individuals in the special needs community who are excelling at their job, provide a valuable service or who have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit.

Since its creation in 2012, the West Island dance studio for people with special needs has steadily grown from three dancers to 20 under the care and attention of Thiboutot. “It’s like a family,” she said. “They come [to Studio J]; it’s a safe environment, and they see their friends. They form stronger bonds.”

Recognizing the relative lack of dance schools available to neurodivergent people in Montreal, Thiboutot decided to take her own love of the art and knack for teaching to fill the void.

Ahead of each four-month session, Thiboutot choreographs several dance numbers that range in style from hip hop to jazz, then teaches them to the students herself. At the end of each term, Studio J dancers get to show off their moves to their friends and family during highly anticipated recitals.

“I’m watching the audience,” she said, recounting her own experience of the recitals. “I’m finding the parents, and they’re glowing.”

On top of being a fun time, Studio J has been credited for a number of physical and social benefits for the dancers, including increasing mobility to coaxing shy students out of their shell.

Lindsay Daoussis is a long-time dancer with Studio J. She credits much of her enjoyment to her teacher. “She’s amazing,” she said of Thiboutot. “She’s very enthusiastic and always smiling... She’s a really nice person. I really look up to her.”

It is a sentiment that is shared by others, including Kathryn Iliopoulos, who has been volunteering at Studio J for two years. “I find with the energy that Jodi brings; the positivity comes from her,” she said. “If your coach is always coming in positive, [and] she’s always happy, everybody is going to be happy. It’s so warm and welcoming.”

With news of the award, Thiboutot is planning for a bigger venue that can accommodate the growing number of recital-goers.

“There’s always room for growth,” she stated, explaining that she hopes to begin offering sessions on the weekend once the demand is there. For now, the one-hour classes are held on Mondays and Fridays, and new members are welcome to register.