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Tyler Rhoads ’23 Pivots from Ballet to Law

When Tyler Rhoads began his 1L year at Cornell Law School this fall, he was also embarking on a second career. The first: ballet. Rhoads joined Colorado Ballet’s Studio Company in 2014 and was promoted to the corps de ballet in 2016. Though he grew up appreciating his father’s work as an attorney, it was his experiences as a unionized artist that provided the extra push toward law.

During his dance career, Rhoads was a member of the American Guild of Musical Artists and became involved in union activities, serving on negotiating committees for collective bargaining agreements. Eventually, he was appointed to the Board of Governors for the union and elected as the union representative for his company.

Tyler Rhoads performing a ballet move
Photographs taken by Francisco Estevez

“I saw the tangible impacts my work had on the working conditions and quality of life of my colleagues firsthand,” he says, “and I knew that, with a legal education, I could be an even more effective advocate for the artists I was representing.” At the recommendation of union staff members, Rhoads looked into Cornell’s Labor Law program, which, he observes, is “truly one of a kind.” He decided to apply to the Law School.

Though it may seem like a big leap, Rhoads notes that ballet has equipped him for a variety of challenges. “Ballet teaches you a self-discipline that is extraordinary. I learned my physical and mental limits, and then I learned that, with time and dedication, I could expand those limits. I think that internal motivation is essential to success in any field, and I especially think it will help me throughout my legal career.”

While he hopes to get back in the dance studio recreationally once it is safe to do so, he is currently focusing on other types of movement: “I’m enjoying this new chapter by finding new ways to move and connect with my body. This summer I started running and have taken to it—I’m enjoying exploring Ithaca’s many trails and gorgeous views.”

Rhoads is looking forward to studying labor law and participating in the Labor Law Clinic at some point, but he’s also keeping an open mind about where his studies and future career may lead. For now, he’s making the most of an unusual but motivating first term.

“I feel so grateful to be back in the classroom exploring a new field,” he says. “In the first few weeks of classes, I have been inspired by my peers as we all grapple with new concepts and ideas. Even though we are physically distanced, wearing masks, and on Zoom, we are working to create a sense of camaraderie that further enriches the education we are receiving.”

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