The Pursuit of Passion with Angela Xu

 

“You can never believe that you’re not good enough.”

Pursuing your passion and sticking to your dream is not always an easy task when those around you are questioning and challenging your decisions. Angela Xu however strongly believes in just going for it.

A Dance Major at York University, Angela is in her third year working multiple jobs and looking for opportunities to build and push forth her craft. She dances, models, and seeks acting roles all while pursuing her education full time.

Dancing for 14 years, Angela’s love for dance began with Ballet. She has branched out to Contemporary, Jazz Funk, Hip-Hop, Heels, and even Beginner Pole Dancing! Angela had the opportunity to train in Ballet while living in Shanghai for 6 years. While living there, she realized how rigid the school system was. She did not have a chance to take electives or learn about what she was truly interested in. For as long as she can remember, she always wanted to be a dancer.

She recalls, “I want to dance. I want to do ballet. I want to perform on stage...As I kept saying that, I realized that it was true for myself.”

Growing up in a culture where more traditional careers were favoured, Angela had to deal with disapproval and misunderstandings about her decision to pursue dance. These misunderstandings surrounding the issue of dance as an unstable career. The doubt and worry of others, played a role in Angela’s decision to pursue her dreams as a dancer - regardless, she decided to go for it.

She lets us know,

“I would have regretted it so much if I didn’t pursue it at first. If I didn’t just give it a chance...so I decided to take that leap of faith and then I realized something very interesting. It’s not as bad as people say it is. People think there are no job opportunities and that you can’t make money from it but the whole thing about being in an industry such as the performing arts is that you have to always be on the lookout for yourself for opportunities.”

Angela reminds us that we are our own biggest supporters.

She says,

“You can’t wait for other people to give them to you, so if that means going out to auditions or going onto social media, even just to check what’s going on in the community, attending shows etc...you do it for yourself and in doing that you have a much better understanding of how the industry works. Overall you can build connections and you can find more job opportunities and more employers and that’s how you can make a living out of it.”

We asked how she views and acts upon the discouragements from close ones. Angela shows us that switching our perspective on a negative situation helps us to grow and hold ourselves accountable.

She says,

“It’s still not easy to overcome that at all because it deals so much with your mental health and your emotional well-being every single day. Everyday I’m going to class, going to dance class and I try to do the best that I can, even on the days I’m so unmotivated to dance, I’m here and I’m paying for my tuition and I have this dream of becoming a professional dancer in this industry. So I have to try my best no matter what.”

We followed up with, “How do you overcome that boundary?”

“As to the discouraging comments that my family have made to me over the years? When I was younger, even now a little bit, I just try to brush it off because whenever they said anything like that, I would usually just remain silent. I was never one of those people to be very upfront about anything, I would almost never confront anybody unless I was very, very triggered. And that’s also relating to my culture. In Asian culture, we don’t really learn to confront people about things, we like to keep the peace. But they have resulted in emotional outbursts sometimes, because all of those things, from so many incidents and situations, just coming to one single moment...sometimes I do get angry and I lash out. I think from the progress that I made so far with my own career, I think I’m starting to prove to them that I can make this a thing for myself and that I can do with it, what other people are doing with their careers and make a successful living out of it.


“At any moment, did you ever feel that this major wasn’t for you? What advice would you give to yourself or to other people to pick yourself back up?”

“I would say no, I never felt that I made a mistake by going into this route but there have been many moments where I’ve felt discouraged, maybe at my own performance or maybe at things that other people say sometimes.

She recalls moments after not receiving roles that she had auditioned for, as well as dealing with competition.

“It usually has to do with getting the role. I go to a lot of auditions and of course I don’t get into all of them, but I do get into some of them and those have become some of the greatest moments of my life, the greatest performances I’ve ever done. But most of them I don’t get into because they have such a large selection pool to choose from and everybody is so differently talented that they’re looking for very specific aspects. Sometimes when I feel like I haven’t done well in an audition, I’ll feel pretty down for a while, I’ll be like maybe I’m just not good enough, I’m not good enough of a dancer, I don’t have enough presence and all the negative things like that but you know what? In the end, I just try to think of it as a free class, it’s another free class to help me learn more about what choreographers and dancers out in the world are doing and it’s another opportunity for me to learn from them and maybe in the future be able to apply those same attributes to myself, to my own dancing and that’s how I can keep improving myself; improving myself more and more.

She emphasizes the importance of motivation.

“It has a lot to do with self-motivation because you can never believe that you’re not good enough. If you have the passion for it, you just have to keep trying and trying and trying. Some things won’t always work out but some things will, and you have to take those opportunities and go with them and that will lead you to even better things in the future.”

We asked her if she had any advice for people who are stuck or want to pursue something despite the disapproval of others?

She recalls going to an old dance teacher in her senior year of high school, looking for advice. Without hesitation, Angela recites what her teacher told her all those years ago.

You’re not closing any doors, if you decide to go in a different path than what you originally intended. That to me just seemed so profound and so enlightening because I suddenly realized that no matter what decision I make, I can always change it later on if I feel like I haven’t gone down the right path. But that’s okay because what is life? Life is really just about taking chances and figuring out for yourself the place you want to be.

Angela tells us to seize those moments and opportunities. Every opportunity is a chance for learning and growth.

There are always different opportunities for you to do what you want to do, it just depends on how you want to navigate it...Do what you feel where your passion lies right now and in the future if that changes and if your passion suddenly migrates somewhere else that’s completely okay because it’s your life and it’s your choice how you want to live it.”


Being in a creative field, criticism and critique are major factors in the process. It is a field of subjectivity and opinion.

Critique is always valuable if critique is given in the correct way. If they are just slanderous comments, then that’s not helpful at all. If they are purposeful comments with the intent of helping you become a better artist, then of course they are useful.”


If you’re scared of feedback, Angela has us covered. Her response to being fearful of judgement;

Be vulnerable...As an artist not everybody will like your work because people have opinions and they’re subjective so nothing can truly be graded on an equal basis. You just have to let yourself out there because what you’re doing essentially is you’re trying to represent yourself through your work and what you can do with it. If you can’t open yourself up to your audience and show these people “This is what I believe in, this is what I want to do” then you’re never going to reach that level where you can make the art that you want to make. It’s going to be difficult at first, for sure, but over time it gets easier. You just have to allow yourself, and allow people to see the emotions that run through you and the thoughts that go through your brain.


Angela leaves us with her final tidbit of advice of pursuing our passions.

If you don’t go for it now, you don’t know when you’re going to go for it in the future...Start going out and doing different things because if you start doing different things - and new things - things that you’ve never done before, maybe you’ll discover where that passion is.”

To learn more about Angela and journey, you can follow her at:

Angela Xu // @angelalala_x

Written by Amanda Monisha

 
David Luong