Monday marked the final night of emotional auditions for So You Think You Can Dance season 16, and Fox saved one of the best moments for last, when Phoebe Kochis, a 19-year-old jazz dancer with special needs, fulfilled her lifelong dream of trying out for the show.
“When Phoebe was born, [doctors] said, ‘We're sorry, she has Down syndrome. She's never going to do the things that maybe you're expecting,’” Phoebe’s mother, Jeanie Kochis, told host Cat Deeley.
“We were told when she was born not to get our hopes up and not to expect much. She would never do normal things like ride a bike or potty-train, even,” Jeanie later revealed to People.
In fact, Phoebe didn't even walk until she was 2. But then she defied the odds when six months after that, much to her parents’ amazement, she began doing the splits and lifting her leg over her head. They then decided to enroll her in dance lessons. “And she just soared,” Jeanie bragged Monday.
Phoebe, who hails from Denver, later won the title of Colorado Miss Amazing, a pageant for girls with disabilities. But since age 6, she had always longed to compete on SYTYCD.
“I feel really happy when I dance, and I love to inspire people,” she said. “I worked really hard, and now I am here. It's my dream come true.”
Uninhibitedly free-styling to indie chanteuse OONA’s “Tore My Heart,” Phoebe effectively captured the judges’ hearts — demonstrating impressive flexibility, star-quality sass and an irrepressible spirit. It was impossible not to smile when she was onstage.
“I know you said you wanted to come here and be a star on So You Think You Can Dance, but you’re the star, you're the universe, and so on,” raved judge Dominic Sandoval. “Your flexibility, incredible. It just looked like you had a blast.”
“What I love most about you, Phoebe, is your love for dance, and watching you have that much fun brings me so much joy. So I thank you for that. You're a ham out there too, by the way,” quipped judge Mary Murphy.
Main judge and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe was also thoroughly charmed — although he could not in good conscience advance Phoebe to the next round of competition, the Academy, alongside other, more technically skilled auditioners.
However, Lythgoe didn’t want to let the adorable Phoebe go just yet. “I would love you to come along to the Academy as my guest, and join in and enjoy yourself,” he offered. “Thank you for giving everything you've got into dance.”
Phoebe happily accepted the invitation, while her parents and the rest of the audience cheered and chanted her name. And she will surely give everything she has to the Academy, even if she ultimately cannot quality for the top 20. As Sandoval put it, “Some of the moves maybe were a little shaky here and there, but I didn't care, because every move you did, you did with confidence. You did it with love and compassion. And that's what this show is all about.”
“She didn’t say, ‘I want to win that show.’ She said, ‘I want to go on that show.’ And she’s done it,” Phoebe’s mother later told Colorado’s Fox 31 News. “So, anything beyond that is just wonderful icing on the cake.”
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