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October 22, 2015

WOMAN TO WATCH :: ANDREA JONES-ROOY

Sass Woman to Watch

As a professional circus performer, comedian, professor and writer, Andrea Jones-Rooy, a Frederick native, now divides her time between Shanghai and New York—and is indeed a Woman to Watch. Andrea grew up studying dance at Frederick’s own wonderful Dance Unlimited with Donna Grim and Gayle Williams, and acting with Charlie Smith.  In college she minored in dance, but felt she should focus on academics, triple majoring in Chinese, Economics, and International Relations.  She then attended the University of Michigan, where after many tough years she earned her Ph.D in Political Science. While earning this degree she discovered circus art, which was a perfect outlet to maintain her sanity amidst the pressures of grad school. Two years ago she got an unexpected opportunity to move to Shanghai with NYU and decided to take it. Once in China, she auditioned for a circus-themed nightclub, and suddenly found herself with two jobs—professor by day, circus performer by night.  It’s been a wild time ever since.

As a professor, Andrea teaches Political Science and Complex Systems at NYU’s new Shanghai campus – teaching students from all over the world in a unique melting pot of cultures and languages. As a circus performer, she performs mostly trapeze, fire, and contortion, but occasionally branches out into silks, aerial hoop, the bed of nails, fans, and even the occasional burlesque.  As a comedian, Andrea performs standup and improv, both in Shanghai and NYC. She usually performs in English but every now and again tries it in Chinese and is reminded how hard it is!  As a writer, she is currently writing a book about her life in Shanghai.  It’s (tentatively) called Double Lives and is about being both a professor and performer, about traveling, being far away from home, and learning self-reliance.

Sass Talks with Andrea:

1. What are three pieces of advice you could give to readers about following their passions or dreams?
(1) Don’t be afraid.  (2) Don’t worry about what other people think, or will think, of you. Not only does it not matter, but also you’re probably wrong about what they think anyway.  (3) If there’s something out there that you’d like to do, try it in whatever form you can—right now.  Just start doing the thing you want to do, even if it’s small scale, on your own or whatever.  That’s the only way you’ll see if you really enjoy it. (Please note all three of these things are easier said than done.  I struggle with all of them every day.)

2. What do you think has helped you the most with your success?
I read a lot during grad school about what makes people who are successful different from those who aren’t. One big difference seemed to always be “grit”.  As in, when things are hard, don’t give up.  I’ve tried to channel that a lot.  A related difference is successful people show up for the work even when they don’t want to—especially when they don’t want to.  The day you’re not in the mood for training, rehearsal, writing, or whatever—that’s the day it’s most important.

3. What has been the biggest challenge you have overcome to achieve your goals?
Self doubt.  I can’t tell you how frequently I think “who am I to get to do what I want” and “why would anyone care what I have to say” and “I’m not ever going to be as good as X or Y or Z person.”  It’s not a part of my brain that’s easy to shut off or transform.

4. Who do you look up to or admire?
My parents and my brother.  They are all incredibly good, and generous people who have dedicated their lives to helping others while also pursuing their own passions.  I am also always fascinated by anyone who has abandoned a path they thought they “should” be on and gone instead for their dreams, however unrealistic they seemed at the time.


BY SARAH GRAY

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