Amy Jordan’s 2017 first performance following her near-fatal accident. Photo credit: Cherylynn Tsushima
“As the story goes, when I was pinned under the tire of the bus I had a crucial moment,” Amy Jordan, author of the new book Dance Because You Can, told Dance Network. “I could give in and die, or survive. Then a thought came to me – ‘Victory Dance.’ If I survive there will be a Victory Dance. I had NO idea what this meant at the time.”
Ms. Jordan has since created more than a just victory dance in her career, she’s started a movement. A movement based in inspiration, positivity, and self-belief; and the guidance and zeal she carries should be viewed as an inspiration not just to fellow dancers, but to anyone looking to overcome challenges in their own lives.
Having fought numerous uphill battles throughout her life— a childhood diagnosis of Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes from which complications caused her to lose sight in one eye, an eating disorder, and the unthinkable accident mentioned above where she was run over by a bus and almost lost her leg— one would think Ms. Jordan might be, and understandably so, down on life.
Any concept of a hapless or miserable existence, however, could not be more foreign to the author, dancer, choreographer, motivational speaker, and fitness coach. In her new book, fully titled, Dance Because You Can: 5 Steps to Transform Trauma into Triumph, Jordan lays out for readers, not just the steps to “inspire and motivate them to overcome any adversity” but also how she has learned to “make the impossible, possible.”
Dance Network had the chance to speak with Jordan last week, not long after the book’s release and signing party at New York City’s Alvin Ailey Dance Studios. Read the interview below.
Amy Jordan. Photo credit: Mami Yamada
Dance Network: Before we get into the book itself, tell us a little about what originally brought you to dance? How did you find your way into the studio initially?
Amy Jordan: I started dancing at age 5. I was taking kids’ classes at what was then Ballet Florida. My teacher was Ms. Marie. I remember going across the floor as Tinkerbell and Captain Hook.
Other kids wore black leotards and pink tights. Not me. I wore a bright yellow tutu!
As a child and pre-teen, I was a highly competitive baton twirler. I went to national championships and competed for a spot at World Championships. It was Olympic level training. In those days it was similar to what rhythmic gymnastics has become. I had to take ballet and jazz to make me a better performer.
Eventually, I retired my competitive career and started dancing full time. Three days after my senior recitals I went to New York City. The rest is history.
DN: So, in the book you discuss overcoming trauma and turning challenge into triumph, and a lot of the inspiration comes from events in your life--so without giving too much away, can you give readers a tease as to what they might expect to find out about overcoming challenges in their own lives when they read?
AJ: I hope the book is a roadmap. I live with a chronic condition and was challenged by a near-death trauma, among other life moments. The book is real. You can expect to, I hope, feel part of a conversation. The 5 Steps of D.A.N.C.E. are a guide to plug into any situation. In the end, through the steps, you mold your own life Victory Dance.
Amy Jordan throughout her healing process. Photos courtesy: Amy Jordan
DN: One of the major points of the book has to do with an accident you suffered in 2009 when you were run over by an MTA Bus in New York City, almost lost your leg, and went through an enormous amount of treatment to have it rebuilt. You credit much of your remarkable recovery to your ”dream team” of doctors and medical staff, but tell us about how your drive and passion as a dancer helped you?
AJ: Early on, one of my treatment team told me I would recover further than others because I was a dancer. I have a high pain tolerance. A life of dancing and strict ballet training taught me discipline. I was focused on moving forward, literally moving one step at a time. From the beginning, I was committed to doing the work. I can’t sit still. The therapy was grueling and it continues to this day.
The focus I learned as a dancer translated into focusing on getting back on my feet. If I wasn’t a dancer I am not sure I would have gotten as far as I have.
Chita Rivera and Amy Jordan (right) after Ms. Rivera was presented with the Victory Dance Project’s 2017 Woman Of Valor award. Photo credit: Cherylynn Tsushima
DN: Tell us a bit about how the creation of Victory Dance Project came about, what it does, and your dreams for its future are?
AJ: As the story goes, when I was pinned under the tire of the bus I had a crucial moment. I could give in and die or survive. Then a thought came to me – “Victory Dance.” If I survive there will be a Victory Dance. I had NO idea what this meant at the time.
Five years after the accident, and on my 45th birthday, we launched the Victory Dance Project. As so many things do, it started as a bit of an experiment and rather haphazardly.
None the less, the response was overwhelming. I was so fortunate to have a company of some of the most in-demand concert and Broadway dancers on the planet. I get chills as I write this just thinking about it.
The company mission: “Make the Impossible Possible with the Power of Movement.” Those dancers became my legs and my voice. We have such an amazing opportunity to impact people’s hearts and minds from the stage. My goal is always to profoundly impact the lives of everyone involved, from performers, staff, and crew to the audience.
I believe, with my entire being, that artists will be the ones to transcend differences, spread humanity and work towards a more humane world.
I am intent on coaching and inspiring young artists. We are setting up workshops and master classes around the country.
DN: Nowadays you speak, teach, choreograph write books-- so much, and with such a positive outlook on life— How? What's your secret? What is it that keeps you going?
AJ: Yes I have a full plate and am still rehabilitating daily. I practice SGI Buddhism, chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. This is what has and continues to be the bedrock of my life. The SGI is a peace movement based on culture and education. My practice and my community keep me going.
I also feel a tremendous sense of mission to encourage others. The odds of my getting this far were slim. Since I made it, I want to support others challenging life’s adversities and let them know that yes, you can dance your own Victory Dance— whatever that is for you. This keeps me going and out of my own drama.
Oh, and If I did it, so can YOU. Anything is possible!
Amy Jordan’s book is available on Amazon. You can also find out more about her, book her for speaking engagements, and contact her reps at her website. Be sure to follow her on Instagram and Facebook, as well.