Grace, beauty, elegance, athleticism. Rebecca Paul and Morgan Wilson embody every word you can use to describe ballet dancers.
That's plain to see when they begin class on a sunny afternoon in the second-floor studio at Piedmont School of Music and Dance.
Their talent was obvious, too, when they auditioned for a three-week summer program at Juilliard School in New York City.
Rebecca and Morgan were two of 22 young ladies chosen from applicants worldwide. That two dancers would be chosen from the same studio is pretty amazing.
"It's incredible," said Morgan, 17. "It's crazy."
"That's my dream, to live in New York and dance," said Rebecca, 16.
The girls submitted video auditions in January and got the good news in March.
The studio is owned by Rebecca Massey Wiley and her husband, Daniel Wiley. He received a bachelor's degree in dance from Juilliard, so he knows how tough the competition is.
The summer program can be a stepping stone toward admission to Juilliard, Daniel Wiley said. While there, the girls will dance up to five hours a day, taking classes in ballet, modern dance, choreography, music theory and more.
"They're trying to give you a miniature picture of what it's going to look like during the year," he said.
Students from around the world apply for both the summer program and the year-round program, he said. Twenty-two male dancers will also participate in the summer program.
"For what Juilliard is, it's the most selective school in the nation," Wiley said. Only 24 students are accepted in the year-round dance program, he said.
The Kannapolis studio has a 100 percent success rate in placing its students in conservatories such as Juilliard, the Boston Conservatory and New York University's Tisch Program.
"They're not only looking for good dancers," Wiley said of Juilliard. "They're looking for an overall healthy package."
Rebecca and Morgan fit that description perfectly.
They're both tall for ballet dancers: Rebecca Paul is 5-8; Morgan is 5 feet 101/2 inches tall, - 6 feet, she notes, in pointe shoes.
Both girls said they were glad they're in good shape. After all, it's intimidating to stand in front of a mirror day after day in a leotard and tights.
"I'm thankful that I'm healthy and can dance as much as I do," Rebecca said.
"It's my body and it's my life," Morgan said. "I feel good about it."
"Stretch 'til it hurts, Morgan!" Rebecca told her in class.
"You gotta dance like you're 8 feet tall. It's an asset. Use it!"
Rebecca dances at the studio five days a week while Morgan dances four days there, plus another day in Fort Mill, S.C.
"To do it as much and as often as we do, you've got to love it," Rebecca said.
Their moms ferry them to classes.
"I have a permit but I haven't had time to practice," Morgan admitted.
Morgan is the daughter of Kathie Wilson and granddaughter of Maggie Gamble, both of Charlotte. Rebecca's parents are Jon and Kathy Paul of Huntersville.