Tennis shoes. Soccer cleats. Golf studs. Every sport has its own type of footwear. Unlike many other athletes, senior Kristen Pawloski gets suited up by lacing silk ribbons and squishing her toes against hard wood. But being a ballerina doesn’t just include having the right slippers. It also takes poise, grace, determination and strength. Kristen has attained these traits after years of practice.
Starting at the age of three, Kristen has taken numerous ballet classes. However, just like learning any new activity, the first couple of years as a young child were just fun and games.
“When you’re little, you just jump around … and smile at yourself in the mirror,” Kristen said.
After learning the basics, she set a short-term goal for herself, which ended up shaping her teen and high school years. Kristen was determined to get pointe shoes, slippers with wooden planks sewn in to allow her to dance on her toes. But instead of stopping once she achieved this goal, Kristen continued to dance.
Now, Kristen is part of the Pacific Ballet Academy in Mountain View. Being a top ballerina includes having one to two-hour practices six times a week. Because the academy’s annual winter performance of the “Nutcracker” is being performed at the end of November, Kristen has equally long rehearsals before or after her daily practices.
Even though she spends hours practicing, Kristen is able to balance her school life and her dance life.
“It’s actually not that hard,” Kristen said. “It all works itself out somehow.”
With this being her last year to perform the “Nutcracker” at the end of the year, Kristen is proud to have been able to get the top role of the Sugarplum Fairy. In addition to the role, she’s also the Snow Queen, Dewdrop fairy, Spanish lead, Arabian lead, a snowflake and a flower.
While she’s excited about her final “Nutcracker” performance, it’s also hard for Kristen to carry the dance workload.
“It’s been stressful because it’s my last year, and I have a lot of role,” Kristen said.
When she’s not practicing or performing the Nutcracker, Kristen gets ready for the four performances of the summer showcases, which include “Swan Lake” and “Giselle.”
In addition to performing for the Pacific Ballet Academy, Kristen also has tried out for the American Ballet Theater (ABT). After the audition in San Francisco, Kristen had the chance to travel to Detroit for a summer intensive course. At this intensive, she was able to work and learn from previous soloists who had also been part of the ABT.
Kristen also enjoys taking Advanced Jazz classes and school when she’s not performing in Mountain View or for the ABT. While jazz isn’t exactly ballet, she still feels it benefits her.
“It’s fun because you get to do another type of dance,” Kristen said. “The moves you learn in one dance can help you in another dance.”
Even though she has been a ballerina for most of her life, Kristen is still deciding what she wants to do during her college experience. She would like to minor in ballet her freshman year.
Being a ballerina has had a larger impact on her life than just learning dance moves and being with her friends. She has become a stronger person.
“When your toes hurt and bleed and turn numb, you have to push through the pain and get through it because it makes you stronger,” Kristen said.