Meet the amazing teen ballerina triumphing over scoliosis

At first glance, Gigi Crouch is living every teen dancer’s dream. Her arabesques are stunning, and, at only 17, she’s studying ballet at a professional level with a major dance company. Impressive? Absolutely. But even more so, considering she was diagnosed with scoliosis at 13, just two years after she started taking ballet lessons.

Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine, most commonly found in preteen and young teen girls. There is no known cause, but it definitely isn’t brought about by exercise or physical activity (so Gigi’s ballet lessons had nothing to do with it). Judy Blume famously wrote about scoliosis in her preteen classic, Deenie. In Deenie, the title character must wear a special back brace for four years to correct the curve in her spine. Which is the same thing Gigi faced when she was diagnosed with the condition.

Gigi had a 20-degree curvature in her lumbar spine and a 30-degree curve in her thoracic spine (the upper and middle back). Scoliosis oftentimes runs in families, and Gigi’s mom wore a brace when she was younger. So she was able to tell Gigi what to expect. In an interview with People, Gigi said, “My mom had told me stories of her own teenage years in a brace, so I knew what was coming. The brace was surprisingly easy to get used to, but still hard to get comfortable with the almost constant pressing of plastic to my skin.”

Despite wearing the brace up to 20 hours a day for three years, Gigi was determined to live her life and continue doing the things she loved. This included ballet. As she told People, the advice she has for other girls faced with scoliosis is this: “There are going to be times when you are going to be limited. It is important to focus and explore what you can do rather than dwelling on that you cannot.”

We love Gigi’s amazing, positive attitude! And like her 107,000 followers on Instagram where she posts as @scolerina9247, we think she’s an inspiration for anyone facing challenges or pursuing a dream. (That’s pretty much all of us, right?!)

Gigi uses social media to build a community where girls dealing with scoliosis can come together for support. She says she was inspired to reach out to others after finding so much encouragement from the online community Curvy Girls, an online support group for girls with scoliosis. She told People that Curvy Girls “helped me discover things, like which clothes to wear with the brace, and how baby powder could help diminish the heat rashes. They helped me emotionally and physically to deal with the brace.” And now she’s doing the same on Instagram, where she gets messages from other girls who find strength and encouragement when they see posts like the one below, which Gigi captioned “happy national scoliosis month!”

Gigi stopped wearing her brace last October, when her body reached skeletal maturity. She’s now studying ballet in the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Professional Division. Because #winning.

We can’t wait to see what she does next!

(All images via Instagram @scolerina9247.)