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'Dance means freedom' | Teenage dancer doesn't let disabilities define her steps

Becca Jones lives with autism and a feeding tube. She's a dancer at Royal Youth Dance Ensemble in Knoxville who loves expressing herself.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Knoxville dancer isn't letting disabilities stop her from doing what she loves. In fact, 18-year-old Becca Jones embraces her differences on the dance floor.

Inside Royal Youth Dance Ensemble, Jones may move with her feet, but she dances with her heart.

"Dance means freedom," Jones said. "It's a chance to be myself and express my emotions."

Not only that, but she's able to share her story. In one of her most recent choreographed dances to "Lost Boy" by Ruth B., she dances with a prop: part of her feeding tube.

It's not just a prop though, it's an integral part of her life.

"It's to help me gain weight, and the truth is, I wouldn't be here without it," Jones said. "It's really saved my life since I've had it since eighth grade."

Her teachers posted pictures online where Jones showed off her feeding tube to showcase how she's rising above the stigma.

It's all to show why ditching the excuses of people's opinions is important when it comes to what you love.

"You can dance no matter the size, no matter what the obstacles are," Jones said.

Jones also lives with autism, and the studio is her safe place.

 "I'm glad they've accepted me for who I am," Jones said. "Because I know there's a lot of people with feeding tubes who don't aren't accepted, or people with autism are not accepted."

Pushing, turning, and leaping past the obstacles in her path is her specialty.

"It's important because no matter what challenges you face, you can dance if you choose," Jones said.

Not only does she shine in the spotlight, she shares it with others, teaching young dancers not to let anything stop them.

"I would really like them to know that, don't be afraid to dance, just be yourself," Jones said.

She was once there, starting on the dance floor when she was young, taking a break, then returning to the stage in high school. Her mom suggested she get back into dance in ninth grade.

"I was happy, because it started with ballet, and then modern and then lyrical, and now I'm just really busy with dance," Jones laughed.

She graduated from Karns High School in 2021.

Now, she has big plans for her next step.

"I'm hoping that maybe in the future I can go to college possibly get a degree for dance," Jones said.

It's a move reminding her of where she's been and how she can impact the world.

Jones also has a YouTube channel called Maddie Hoops and volunteers with AmeriCorps in her free time.

She says it's important to keep smiling and helping others whenever you can.