This woman is redefining what it means to have a dancer's body

Tiffany Geigel overcame Jarcho-Levin syndrome to become a principal dancer at the Heidi Latsky Dance Company.

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By Stephanie Larratt

Tiffany Geigel has been challenging the stereotype of a dancer's body since she started training in the art form as a young girl.

Born with Jarcho-Levin syndrome, a rare disorder that causes physical deformities of the skeleton, Geigel didn't believe a career in dance was possible because she didn't see anyone who looked like her succeeding professionally.

"I saw what everybody else saw: You had to have a particular body type. You had to look a particular way," said the native New Yorker. "There was no inclusivity, no diversity."

"The Beauty of Tiffany," by Asael Dror

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Instead, Geigel chose to major in business.

While in college, a former dance teacher offered Geigel a job as a dance instructor. Fearing her students' parents wouldn't see her as a qualified teacher, she changed her major to dance.

"I figured I would have a paper that says I was qualified," said Geigel.

At that point, Geigel had no intention of moving her dance career beyond that of being a teacher. She still didn't see a place for herself in the world of professional dance.

"There were times where I was like, 'Why am I doing this?'" said Geigel. "But I was like, 'I'm just doing this to become a teacher.'"

In 2009, Geigel took a leap of faith and auditioned for the television dance competition show "So You Think You Can Dance." Following her appearance, Heidi Latsky, founder of Heidi Latsky Dance in New York City, called Geigel to invite her to rehearse with the company. Reluctantly, Geigel agreed to attend but not participate.

"I went into a rehearsal and I saw one other person that was different," said Geigel, "I said, 'Well maybe I can do this,' so we just started playing in the studio."

Geigel is now a principal dancer with Heidi Latsky Dance, where she has been dancing professionally since 2014.

"What drives me is the people that think that I can't do something," said Geigel. "That's when I'm like, 'I'm going to prove you wrong.'"

The inspirational dancer continues to motivate change in the dance community. She is boldly redefining what it means to be a professional dancer and changing the barriers for entry for young dancers who don't fit the traditional mold.

"Everybody has their battles," said Geigel. "Mine is just constant."