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'SYTYCD' Contestant With Down Syndrome Phoebe Kochis Shuts Down Inspiration Porn

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Update: On the season 16 finale of “So You Think You Can Dance,” the judges brought back fan favorite dancer Phoebe Kochis, who has Down syndrome, for a special guest appearance. Kochis rocked out to wild applause and Taylor Swift’s “Me.” See her performance below: 

On Monday, dancer Phoebe Kochis, who has Down syndrome, wowed the “So You Think You Can Dance” (“SYTYCD”) audience with her confident dance performance all while refusing to be a disability stereotype.

Now in its 16th season, Kochis was a long-time fan of “SYTYCD,” and it was part of her inspiration to take dance lessons. She told her mom, Jeanie Kochis, as a child she would be on that show one day. Jeanie told KDVR in an interview it took many lessons — right alongside typical kids — for Phoebe to get to the “SYTYCD” stage.

“I saw all the hard work she did that went into it,” Jeanie Kochis said. “It was just incredible to watch her evolve, watch her get better and better. She didn’t have to be in a special dance class. She competed against typical kids.”

After waltzing onto the “SYTYCD” stage with confidence, Phoebe Kochis answered questions from “SYTYCD” judges Nigel Lythgoe, Laurieann Gibson, Dominic “D-Trix” Sandoval and Mary Murphy, including the usual questions about her age and where she’s from. But Kochis also had the perfect response for that one question many people with disabilities are asked:

‘Now, tell me this, Phoebe, you are overcoming a challenge in life, right?’ asked Gibson.

‘I’m overcoming to be a star on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,” Kochis retorted back.

She added a shoulder shrug and smirk while shutting down what otherwise could be spun into “inspiration porn.”

The 19-year-old dancer, who has studied dance for more than a decade, then took the stage to audition for the judges with a jazz dance routine set to OONA’s “Tore My Heart.” Kochis showed off her flexibility, dropping into several splits, and her command of the stage.

Following her performance, Kochis received a standing ovation from the judges. “Every move you did, you did with confidence, with love and compassion,” Sandoval told her. Murphy added, “Watching you have that much fun gave me so much joy.”

Lythgoe made his comments last, and while Kochis would not be advancing in the competition, he wanted to give her an opportunity to learn more about dance as his guest during “Academy Week,” a week of callbacks following the show’s auditions.

“Technique-wise, stacked up against the other dancers that are going to be in the academy would prove really, really difficult for you,” Lythgoe said. “I don’t believe we can put you into the competition, Phoebe, but I would love for you to come to the academy as my guest and join in and enjoy yourself.”

Prior to her audition on “So You Think You Can Dance,” Kochis was named Colorado’s Miss Amazing 2017 in the teen division, which included a dance routine in the talent portion of the competition. A state branch of a national competition for young women with disabilities, Jeanie Kochis serves as the Colorado Miss Amazing pageant director while Phoebe Kochis is now a queen coordinator and peer mentor.

Kochis said it was hard waiting the three months until she could share with others she received a golden ticket to the academy as a guest and would appear again on the show. Overall, she said it’s been a great experience so far.

“I was thinking there’s no way that they will respect me,” Kochis told People. “I was really excited. It was so much fun.”

Kochis will appear next on “SYTYCD” on Monday, July 15 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

Originally published: July 10, 2019
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