Since shortly after the time they could walk, cousins Andrea Guajardo and Gianna Iannelli have trained hard for life as professional dancers.

Beginning at age 3, Guajardo can recall countless hours of training at South Texas Dance Theater in McAllen, where at the time her mother Yvonne and aunt Yvette, who are accomplished dance instructors, coached them to follow their dreams.

Those dreams are coming to fruition for the local dancers who say they are finding success as students, training among the best dancers in the world in New York City.

Im really going to get to see if this is the path I want to take, said Guajardo, who is 19 years old. It took so much hard work and dedication, but you know it pays off in a lot of ways.

Guajardo is currently studying in New York City at the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and is enrolled in their exclusive Fordham University Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree program in dance.

Iannelli, 20, has spent this year as a student and dancer with Ballet Hispanico in New York. The school and dance company is the foremost representative of Hispanic culture through ballet, modern and Spanish dance, and tours the world. Iannelli will also join the recently created Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet this summer. Kirkland is one of the most famous ballet dancers in the world.

A lot of people are actually surprised that we are from the area, and even more surprised that we have been training with our mothers, Iannelli said. People find it interesting that we are from a small town going to a huge city.

Guajardo said she looks forward to representing the area when she leaves for Paris, France this week. Guajardo will be attending a Summer Intensive program with Dance International New York to study ballet, modern dance and choreography with teachers from the Paris Opera Ballet. Guajardo said she is one of four from the Ailey Program, selected for the honor.

I cant even express how excited I am, just because Europe is the center for contemporary ballet, she said. Its a really exclusive thing, (and) we are going to be getting a lot of individual attention. Im really hoping I get to be seen by teachers and the different people I work with in Paris.

Guajardo is the daughter of Dr. Francisco Guajardo, associate professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Texas-Pan American, and Yvonne Guajardo, who holds a BBA from The University of Texas, where she was a member of the UT Competitive DanceTeam.

Iannelli is the daugther of John and Yvette Iannelli. Her mother Yvette earned a BS degree from Pan American University, where she was a member of the Pan American Jazz Dancers and active in the Pan American Summer Stock Theater.

Yvonne and Yvette have owned Dancentre of Edinburg since 2004, and are certified instructors of ballet, classic tap and jazz.

Andrea is a 2009 graduate of Edinburg North High School. Gianna graduated in 2007 from La Joya High School.