“If something happened to you today and you couldn’t dance tomorrow, how would you dance right now?”
The above question was posed in a scene of my documentary feature, Amy’s Victory Dance, to a group of some eighty dancers auditioning to dance with my company, The Victory Dance Project.
The air in the room became tense. The audience fidgeted.
My role as choreographer and director of The Victory Dance Project and CEO at Amy Jordan Speaks was not intentional. My dream as a girl and young adult was to dance professionally. I trained tirelessly in high school and moved to New York City and then Los Angeles in pursuit of that dream.
What I didn’t realize was that my lifelong training as a dancer was preparing me with tools to overcome life and death obstacles and build a new dream.
I prematurely retired from my performance career at age twenty-one. Visual complications from type 1 diabetes cost me much of my sight and I became legally blind. Unknowingly, this was my first foray into transforming trauma into triumph.
My heart and soul were still that of a dancer. It took me a long time to get back to class and find a new way to work around my visual impairment.
I had put my anger, energy, and dance to good use by creating a dance-based program supporting other kids like me living with diabetes. This was in the 1990s, pre-internet and social media. Support resources were in short supply, so creating this program helped me use dance as a way to advocate for and inspire others.
The work of my “SWEET ENUFF Movement” continued in NYC after I left Los Angeles in 2002. My dance focus had turned from performer to choreographer and teacher. I was finding a new mission and love of working behind the scenes.
On May 1, 2009, things would take a dramatic turn. As I was crossing the street in NYC, I was hit and run over by a New York City express bus and pinned under the tire. I had no feeling in my right side and my first thought was, oh no, there’s no leg and I will never dance again. My second thought was that if I survived the night there would be a Victory Dance. I vowed that if I lived, I would dance again.
My right leg was nearly amputated, and twenty surgeries later, literally rebuilt. The burn ICU became home for months. The physical therapist told me over and over that my rehabilitation would be further and faster because I was a dancer. I had the discipline and determination to push through the pain to achieve the goal of walking again.
I would get in trouble in the ICU because I would bend straight over to put on my pants rather than bend my very painful knee. My rehab team simply rolled their eyes, saying “dancers.”
The rehabilitation was grueling, but my single focus was moving again, and I took one single step at a time. I treated learning to walk again like choreography and counted to eight. One, two, push walker, three, four, move right foot, five, six, move left, seven, eight, stand straight. I continued over and over until I could walk down the hall on my walker without assistance.
Five years after the accident, I stayed true to the vow I made while pinned under the bus tire. The Victory Dance Project premiered on May 31, 2014, on a mission to make the impossible possible with the power of movement. I was finding a new dance voice as a director, producer, and choreographer.
In 2017, I performed my actual Victory Dance with the company for its three-year gala.
The evening also honored Broadway legend Chita Rivera and was a tribute to my doctors and medical staff for saving my life and rebuilding my body.
My Victory performance was chronicled on film and is now a multi- award-winning documentary feature film. The movie is directed by Brian Thomas, a dancer and former choreographer for Michael Jackson, Beyond, Whitney Houston, Liza Minnelli, and a host of entertainment icons.
My essence and spirit as a dancer continue to keep my life moving. With each new obstacle I encounter, I am able to put my dance training to work and create a new pathway. Sometimes our dreams get derailed. The question then becomes: Will we create a new dream or focus on what we lost?
The versatility of dance training spilled over into my life, allowing for versatility of purpose. As dancers, we keep moving no matter what. My daily mission is to continue to Make the Impossible Possible with the Power of Movement.