For my Journalism class, we had to do profiles. This is my very rudimentary attempt at one.
Kristen Criado: From Beethoven to Businesswoman
On any day of the week at Studio 22 Dance Academy, there is a steady pulse of girls and boys of all ages, entering three spacious dance studios in the old schoolhouse. The towering red brick building, located in Franklin, Pennsylvania, is a well-known institution, for its dance program and the creativity that is housed there.
The sounds of tap shoes hitting the wooden floor, giggling girls, and the steady beat of music reverberates through the building, and greets the ears of everyone inside. Most students spend anywhere from two hours to six hours a week taking classes and perfecting their respective dancing styles. However, there is one person who is at the studio more than any other person. Her name is Kristen Criado, and she is the owner of this dancing superpower.
Kristen spends her days preparing paperwork and banking for the studio. At around 3:30 in the afternoon, she makes her way downstairs from her apartment to her office. Her warm, inviting smile greets her students and faculty as they enter the building. A few people stop to chat with her as she takes checks for tuition payments, but most head straight into their classes. Behind the businesswoman in that office is a soft, loving person who comes into view after a few minutes of speaking with her.
Born on March 8, 1970, Kristen Ann Criado was far from ordinary. Thick, brown curls framed her ever-smiling face. Her eyes, brown and sparkling, caught the attention of every passerby. Her father, Phil, a retired state policeman, describes Kristen as being “a caring and loving person, friend and daughter. She’s extremely talented and gifted. She is beautiful both inside and out.”
Kristen is, indeed, a very talented individual. In elementary school, she began her career as a pianist. “I never wanted to practice,” she said. “I would watch television and during the commercials, I would run to the piano and ‘practice’ before the show came back on.” She began accompanying the middle school choir, and soon began accompanying the Madrigal choir of Franklin High School. Her choir director pushed her to become the best accompanist she could be, even when she didn’t want to.
“I can remember thinking to myself, ‘I really hate this,’ but I just kept going.” Throughout her years at Grove City College, Kristen accompanied her music major friends during their midterms and senior recitals. During her senior year of college, she drove back and forth from Grove City to Franklin to stay involved in the Franklin Civic Operetta at the Barrow Civic Theatre. She graduated with a degree in English Literature.
After college, Kristen began work at DJA Inspection Services, while still balancing her life at the theatre. She would arrive at DJA around 8 in the morning, leave at 4:30 in the evening, and travel the short distance to the theatre, where she stayed until late hours of the night, working with the actors and her music.
From 1992 until 2001, Kristen worked a tough schedule. “I love music, the theatre, and my friends there,” she said. However, in 2001, Kristen’s mental and physical health took a turn for the worse. She quit her job at DJA. She stopped at the theatre. She struggled with anorexia and bulimia, dropping down to 120 pounds. “A healthy weight for me is 170 pounds. I’m tall, and I’m big-boned,” she said. “I was just addicted to being skinny. I thought that if I was skinnier, I could wear whatever I wanted and look good… and that people would like me.”
After four years of living with her eating disorder, she decided it was time to get better. She sought professional help, and the support of her closest friends.
Now, five years later, sitting in the office of her dance studio, one would never suspect that she has gone through so much. She’s back at the theatre, and some of her closest friends there are proud to call her a friend. “When I first noticed Kristen in a Barrow production, I was struck with how pretty she was! Since I've gotten to know her as a friend and accompanist, I feel as if I'm just beginning to crack the surface of her talent and natural smartness. She's vulnerable, loyal, giving, creative, artistic, instinctive and sets high standards for herself and people around her,” said Beth Orris, a long-time friend and colleague. Orris directs a choir called Venango Chorus, which is geared toward adults who love to sing.
Katie Kirby-Rogers, another theatre dweller, said: “I've known Kristen for 16 years now... which is a good chunk of my life. She's one of the most constant performers I've ever known. She's a fantastic pianist and she has a great voice. No only is she a solid performer, but she has an amazing personality. Sweet and snarky at the same time, I love when I get to be involved in a show with her.”
Kristen even composed music for an off-Broadway show called Topsy on the Boardwalk.
Going through so much emotional pain and struggle has yet to make its mark on Kristen’s pale, angelic face. In fact, many people known very little about her. “I like to stay behind-the-scenes,” she said.
Back at Studio 22, a little dancer is crying from an upset stomach. Kristen swoops the child into her arms and comforts him. Putting everyone before her, even when times are tough, is how she makes it through the day. “It doesn’t matter if I have a splinter or if I have a broken neck, I will do anything for my friends, my teachers, and my dancers.”
While many people don’t know much about this modest artist, one thing reigns true about her: she is a gifted, humble, beautiful, and wonderful friend, who will do just about anything to see a friend smile.