Tiffany Geigel never expected to become a dancer. Born with a rare, genetic bone disorder called Jarcho-Levin Syndrome, Geigel resigned herself that it wasn't possible for someone like her to become a ballerina. Her disease causes a curving of the spine and a shortening of the neck. Not qualities looked for in a professional dancer. Geigle remembers when her dance teacher let her know, telling People Magazine:
I didn’t think it was something that was possible. My dance teacher was like, ‘You have the technique, you have the legs and the arms and you’re beautiful.’ But the reality is you don’t look like what the ballet world wants.' I knew I wasn’t being lied to. I know how it is. I was like, ‘I would love to be a ballerina.’ But I knew it wasn’t realistic.
Sometimes reality is overrated. Geigel describes how she gave up on dance and then found her way back.
I saw myself working on Wall Street or something. I didn’t pursue [dancing] because I didn’t think it was possible. I didn’t go on auditions. I wasn’t planning on being a performer. It wasn’t in my mind.
But then a decision to change her major back to dance in the hopes of simply being a dance teacher, changed everything.
Since I did that, it led me to where I am now. [My dance teacher] hired me and it snowballed into something else.
Things grew from there. In 2014 Geigel accepted an offer to join Heidi Latsky's dance group, based in New York City. The company is integrated to include dancers with disabilities. Now, Geigel dances two shows a day during the spring season.
I never thought I would be in a dance company in New York City performing ever. I never thought my photo, my face and body would be plastered in Times Square. All the things I never thought would happen, they’re happening!
Although her professional career is going great, people can still be cruel. Geigel describes how difficult it can be to survive in a world that often lacks empathy.
It’s been rough. Walking down the street, just doing normal daily things, everybody’s staring at you. If I’m on the train, people see me and they get scared. They start laughing. I’ve had people call me a reject. I’ve had people call me alien, I’m a monster, I should kill myself, ‘this is why natural selection exists, what kind of freak show is this?’ It’s not something I can ever get used to.
Thankfully, Geigel has a strong support system of family and friends who help her stay true to her own strength.
I just try to go on with my life. I just keep going. I’m not gonna let myself sulk and hide in my apartment because of how stupid how people are. I’m gonna live, that’s what I’m gonna do.
And of course there is dance.
And of course, adorable selfies.
Geigel continues to spread the love.
H/T: People Magazine