Take Two: A Profile on Kristen Criado
During the week, Studio 22 Dance Academy has a steady pulse of girls and boys of all ages enter dance studios in the old schoolhouse. Located in Franklin, Pennsylvania, Studio 22 has become a well-known institution for its dance program and thriving creativity.
The sounds of tap shoes hitting the wooden floor, giggling girls, and the steady beat of music reverberates through the red brick building. Most students spend two hours to six hours a week taking classes here. However, one person can be found at the studio more than any other. Her name: Kristen. She owns this dancing superpower.
Kristen spends her days preparing paperwork and banking for the studio. At 3:30pm, she makes her way downstairs from her studio apartment to her office. Her warm, inviting smile greets her students and faculty as they arrive.
In elementary school, she began her journey 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 school chorus. 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 friends during their senior recitals. During her senior year, she drove back and forth from Grove City to Franklin to stay involved at the Barrow Civic Theatre.
After college, Kristen began work at DJA Inspection Services where she inspected oil tanks for oil companies. She would arrive at DJA around 8 in the morning and leave at 4:30 in the evening, then travel to the theatre and stay until late at night.
From 1992 until 2001, Kristen worked this tough schedule. In 2001, her 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.
After four years of living with her eating disorder, she sought professional help and the support of her closest friends. One friend in particular helped Kristen buy the dance studio she now owns.
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 people 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!” said Beth Orris, a friend and colleague. “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.”
Kristen has been involved with close to one hundred shows at the Barrow.
Katie Kirby-Rogers, also at the theatre said, “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 leave its mark on Kristen. In fact, many people know very little about her and her past. “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 herself, 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.”