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Making friends for life at the dance studio (3 photos)

Soo Dance Unlimited is the subject of this week’s What’s Up Wednesday

Christine Cloutier has been Soo Dance Unlimited’s owner/director since 1993.

A Sault native, Christine has been dancing all her life.

“My Mom put me into dance classes just to get exercise. I went to the classes and they said ‘we like you’ and I received a scholarship,” she said, speaking to SooToday.

Christine was accepted as a student at Canada's National Ballet School in Toronto at the age of 10.

“I came home after a year because I was really homesick,” Christine smiled.

However, Christine was then accepted to the Quinte Ballet School of Canada in Belleville, Ontario, where she studied dance for six years before graduating.

She returned to Toronto and performed with the Toronto Dance Theatre, but an injury forced her to quit dancing for a while.

She then got into modelling and acting, working in that field for four years.

While in the acting world, she appeared in the Sophia Loren film Courage and in Tony Danza’s Doing Life.

Returning to the Sault, she worked as a dance instructor at the Kiana School of Dance before launching Soo Dance Unlimited in 1993.

Formerly located in a one-studio location on Malabar Drive, Soo Dance Unlimited moved to its current three-studio location on Queen Street East in the downtown core in 2013.

“We’re the longest running dance studio in town,” Christine said with justifiable pride.

Reflecting on her success, Christine said “I think it’s our philosophy. There are more competitive studios out there. There’s a studio for everybody. If you really want to go out and be a dance teacher or be in the dance world, go that route, but we accept everybody. We don’t discriminate. Our philosophy is very family-oriented. People get here and say ‘wow, this is a really cool environment.’”

“It’s comfortable for the kids here. They’ll all tell you it’s their second home. They come here to let go of their bad day and release their energy.”

Soo Dance student Emma Vallecorsa, a St. Mary’s College Grade 11 student, agrees.

“I like the way dancing makes me feel. Soo Dance is like a second home for me. I’ve been here for so long that the people here are more like family than just my dance teachers or the people I dance with. They’re like my sisters and my second parents.”

“That makes me want to cry,” Christine chuckled.

Emma’s been dancing since she was three, stating tap and point are her two favourite types of dance.

“It makes me feel happy when I’m on stage and when our team accomplishes great things together. Dance pushes me to the best of my abilities and I’m always supported by my instructors.”

“I always want to be a part of Soo Dance. It’s been a part of my life for so long, so if I go away later on for school I’ll always make sure I come back here and see everybody and help as much as I can,” said Emma, who is currently teaching eight-year-olds at the studio.     

Christine’s students attend competitions twice a year and do very well, an obvious fact when you see the row of trophies on display in Soo Dance Unlimited’s front window.

“It’s countless. I have buckets of plaques. We have a warehouse full of trophies,” Christine said.

Christine and her Soo Dance instructors offer classes for male and female students, ranging in age from two to 70, learning recreational, tap, hip hop, jazz and ballet dance, with approximately 100 competitive dancers and 200 recreational.

“I love what I’m doing. 26 years, and now I’m teaching my former students kids,” said Christine.

“I love to share the education of dance. I like to show the beauty of it. It teaches discipline, posture and life skills. A lot of the kids are still friends after they graduate from here, they’re in each other’s wedding parties, so they make really good bonds and friendships.”

More information on Soo Dance Unlimited may be found on the studio’s website or by email.

Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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