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After watching his twin sister Talya graduate from Rhode Island College in 2018, Tyler Louie took his dreams of dancing off the shelf and placed them into his future.

"I witnessed how developed she became as an artist," says Louie of his sister who graduated with a B.A. in dance performance. "And I said to myself, 'I need to give dance a shot, too."

Louie had not performed well academically as a neuroscience and behavioral biology major at Emory University in Atlanta and was seeking a fresh start.

"At Emory, I realized I wasn't ready for that major and it wasn't a passion for me," he says. "Dance has always been a part of my life, from when I was young and would engage in dance battles and learn from street performers."

At RIC, Louie's academic fortunes have turned around. He's graduating with a 3.4 grade point average. 

"One of the most valuable things I've learned at RIC is to just trust myself," says Louie, who at 25 is slightly older than his fellow counterparts. "I've learned not to judge myself and to really bring everything forward that I have to offer, without having any inhibitions."

Such awareness didn't come without challenges. Louie says dance rehearsals were often grueling and he had to come to terms with accepting criticism.

"My mentors (RIC Director of Dance) Angelica Vessella and (RIC Associate Professor) Jessica Pearson gave me critiques that were tough to digest sometimes, but I took them with grace," he says. "I would struggle with how to change various dance mannerisms but they helped me get through."

Pearson says Louie's mature approach to his dance training was evident from the start.

"He brings a calm, interpersonal and earnest perspective to discussions,'' Pearson says. "It was an honor to teach and observe his growth in our dance program and for him to graduate."

Louie says his sister Talya helped him stay grounded.

"I would tell her about the stress of going through rehearsals and because she'd been through this, too, it was great to talk with her," he says.


Louie dancing with his sister.

While he's a fan of all types of dance, Louie thinks he excelled most during a spring performance in his junior year featuring the choreography of Adrienne Hawkins.

"I performed a piece where I was able to showcase my freestyle type of dance background, highlighting the dance skills I had before coming to RIC," he says.

After graduation, Louie will move to New York City, where he initially plans to live in a Manhattan apartment with his father and audition for dance work.

"I want to get into the fitness industry to maintain all that I've done with physical training regarding my body, and I also want to become a dance instructor," he says. "Additionally, I plan to audition for commercial work and take acting classes."

In that sense, he'll be following in the footsteps of his sister, who as an actress and model says she still uses her RIC dance training during photo shoots.

"She attributes the aesthetics she's learned in dance to helping with what photographers are looking for,'' he says. 

By transferring to RIC, Louie discovered the passion he was looking for and says he wouldn't change any aspect of his journey.

"It took my experience at Emory to redefine what being OK is," he says. "I realized that I have to put myself before anything in life. I need to always be authentic."