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Dance to a Healthy Tune


As a professional dancer working in Los Angeles, Amy Jordan was at the top of her game. But her struggle with diabetes nearly took it all away.

Although the native New Yorker had achieved great success as a dancer, she didn’t take very good care of herself and ignored the warning signs of her disease. Eventually, complications from her diabetes caused her to lose much of her sight and forced her into early retirement.

More than a decade later, Jordan is now healthy and back in the Big Apple running the nonprofit group Sweet Enuff. The organization combines dance classes and educational lessons to teach young people about the importance of proper nutrition and daily physical activity.

“We can spread the fun, and really enlighten these kids because from my perspective, it’s about getting them connected with themselves,” Jordan tells the Inside Track. “That happened to me. I said, ‘Wow, if I don’t change this, I’m not going to be able to do the things I want to do.’ And we see that happen with them.”

Sweet Enuff is among the 10 finalists in the Partnership for a Healthier America’s End Childhood Obesity Innovation Challenge, which recognizes programs across the country that are helping kids get healthy. The programs that place in the top three in a Facebook voting competition will win a trip to Washington, D.C. in March for PHA’s “Building a Healthier Future Summit.” Voting ends Friday.

Sweet Enuff works with students in schools throughout New York, particularly in underserved communities such as Harlem. The eight-week program combines health and wellness coaching with hip-hop dance fitness to get kids thinking about leading healthy lifestyles. Along with mastering some dance moves, students learn how to make healthy meals from a chef and talk about how food marketing influences people’s choices.

The instructors who teach the students are often at the height of their professional dancing careers, Jordan says. One instructor, Brian Henninger, recently performed alongside singer Carly Rae Jepsen during Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin Eve. He also lost 100 pounds as a teenager, which inspires students who might be struggling with their own weight.

And performing before an audience really inspires the kids in a way learning in a classroom might not, Jordan says. She recalls one young boy who sat on a desk with his arms folded for the first few sessions, not enthused about taking part.

That changed when he hit the stage. “He was in the cafeteria the day of the performance saying, ‘I’ll be taking autographs after the show,’” Jordan says, laughing.

Jordan says she hopes to expand Sweet Enuff to other schools, as well as find ways for students to stay involved and connected after their eight-week session has ended.

“It’s a big issue, as you know, and there’s not one thing that’s going to fix it. We didn’t just get this way, there’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle,” Jordan says. “It’s a complicated situation, but at the end of the day what we do is fun and the kids enjoy performing.”

Click here to vote in the PHA End Childhood Obesity Innovation Challenge.

Click here to connect with Amy Jordan.