The soles of Lucrezia Lucchi's pale pink ballet pre-pointes are worn from practicing every day on the wooden studio floor in the Charlotte School of Ballet.
This summer, her dedication earned her a spot in the prestigious summer intensive program at the American Ballet Theatre in New York City.
"We were very surprised she got in, it's so hard to get into the ABT program," said Gay Porter, owner of the Charlotte School of Ballet. "We are really thrilled that she did."
While in New York, Lucrezia, 9, had the opportunity to dabble in jazz, hip-hop, musical theater and acting.
"When I was at ABT, it was actually really fun," Lucrezia said. "We did everything - jazz, character, ballet, choreography, a tiny bit of acting. But Broadway jazz, it was awesome."
From July 31 through Aug. 13, Lucrezia spent each day learning the history of the ballet and dancing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"I think my favorite day was Tuesday because we started out with ballet, then pre-pointe, choreography and then we did jazz," Lucrezia said.
During the history portion of the program, instructors would often show videos of classical ballet performances such as "The Pharaoh's Daughter," she said.
Lucrezia's ABT experience began with a competitive audition with applicants from across the country.
On her birthday, Jan. 29, Lucrezia auditioned with 39 other dancers in Washington, D.C., for a spot in the program.
"(At auditions) it was mostly simple," she said. "We did bar work and pliés. They just saw what our technique was."
Out of thousands of hopefuls, Lucrezia was chosen to participate with the company this summer, said her mother, Ludovica Tassani.
"It was a game: 'Let's go to Washington,' " she said. "We didn't take it really seriously, even though Ms. Porter (Lucrezia's instructor) told us she was good."
She was one of 194 dancers selected to dance, divided into eight different age groups. In Lucrezia's class, there were 24 dancers.
"She always gives 100 percent, and that's not always true of everybody," said Porter. "She is always here on time, ready to go at the bar when I walk in, and that means a lot."
This was not Lucrezia's first experience with a well-known company.
She began dancing ballet at age 2 when she lived in Italy. There, she received instruction from a school offering the Royal Academy of Dance program.
"Mostly I started ballet because I just liked it and I liked shows," Lucrezia said. "But when I started going into second grade, I started wanting to become an actress and ballet was important for acting."
She moved to Charlotte with her parents from Italy when she was 5, because of her father's job.
Lucrezia said she was terrified of the new culture.
"I couldn't even say 'hi' in English," she said. "I had zero words in my vocabulary."
She recalls first arriving in Charlotte and taking a taxi ride with a Southern driver who didn't understand her parents. They in turn didn't understand him.
While she said the transition was difficult because she didn't speak English, it didn't stop her from continuing to dance and excel in school.
After acclimating and learning the language, Lucrezia flourished. She skipped the first grade, is trilingual, and was also admitted to the Duke University Talent Identification Program. At 9, she is in sixth grade at the British-American School of Charlotte.
Her mother recalls Lucrezia helping a new Ukrainian boy at the British-American School on his first day. He didn't speak English.
"On his first day, Lucrezia told him, 'Come on, come with me and we can speak,' " her mother said. "So with a little bit of German, with a little bit of Italian, she put them all together to help him."
Lucrezia's advice to students who move to the United States from other countries and speak different languages is to read - a lot.
She said she was able to develop her English fluency by first reading small books like "Junie B. Jones." She then progressed through series books, like those featuring Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.
And the future? Lucrezia said she wants to continue ballet, but aspires to attend Harvard, then become an actress in movies.