Wearing a blue leotard and her pink pointe shoes, Alondra Gomez bends her knees, straightens a leg and rests it against the barre in the dance studio inside the John A. Patten Recreation Center in Lookout Valley.
She continues doing her pliés, her fondues and rons de jambe. Each exercise takes three to four minutes - once to the left, once to the right.
After warming up, the 14-year-old is ready to work on the details for her biggest role yet, the Sugar Plum Fairy in Ballet Tennessee's "The Nutcracker."
It's the "crème de la crème" role of the two-act ballet, according to Anna Baker VanCura, Ballet Tennessee artistic director.
"It's the culmination of the entire ballet. ... The anticipation of the whole evening hangs on that moment when the Sugar Plum Fairy and her cavalier - a role played by guest artist Sean Hilton from the Northwest Florida Ballet- do that beautiful pas de deux (step for two)," she said.
Alondra had never heard of ballet before her family moved from Mexico to Chattanooga in 2002.
And she hadn't considered being a dancer when her friends encouraged her to audition when she was 8 years old for Dance Alive, a summer cooperative between Ballet Tennessee and the Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department.
She has natural talent, VanCura said.
"She showed a natural ability right from the beginning," she said.
Just as Alondra was learning English, she started to learn the language of dance, one that she mastered very quickly.
Alondra is the first Hispanic and one of the youngest girls to be cast as the Sugar Plum Fairy for the company. She turns 15 years old in January.
"She has the technical skills, the maturity and the ability to carry herself onstage and command that stage by herself in that leading-role position," VanCura said.
When Alondra practices the grand jete, in which her partner lifts her up and places her in his shoulder, or when she does her pirouettes, spinning again and again, she always has a big smile on her face.
"I picture myself onstage with the audience in awe just looking at me," said Alondra, a slender girl with her hair tied back in a bun. "That helps me so much; it gives me energy."
Alondra's dream is to become a professional dancer with the American Ballet Theatre in New York City, and every role she gets, she said, is a step closer to that dream.
"Dance means almost everything to me. I don't know what I would do without it," she said.
"I feel so happy and peaceful when I'm onstage. I find it so easy to express my emotions. I feel like I can let myself go with dance," she added.
And her personality comes across when she performs.
"She has the most wonderful laugh I've heard in any dancer in years," VanCura said. "When she laughs, it makes everyone around her laugh."
For her father, Juan Gomez, nothing makes him prouder than to see his daughter up on the stage.
"It's a blessing," he said, as he took a break from helping carry out props for the production. "It's a privilege."
His dedication to see his daughter succeed was apparent when he changed his plans to move to Atlanta so his daughter could continue her training, said VanCura.
And now, his youngest son, Juan Gomez, 11, is joining his sister in "The Nutcracker" production.