Ballet West Soloist Kristina Pool was unimpressed when she first started ballet at age three, but admits it was probably related to her short attention span for her toddler age. At 10-years-old, she saw The Nutcracker in Princeton, New Jersey, and was mesmerized. Pool enrolled back in ballet, along with jazz, lyrical, and tap, until she hit a pivotal moment at age 12 when she realized ballet came naturally, so her focus shifted to ballet full time at Princeton Ballet School.

Pool says she has always loved learning. “As a child, I loved a good challenge. I really loved going to school, reading books, learning,” Pool said. “I’ve always had a really strong work ethic, so when given a challenge, learning how to get better at something was exciting to me.”

After graduating from Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance, with a concentration in Performance, she studied with Joffrey Ballet Concert Group in New York and was then offered a contract with Ballet West II in 2015. She joined the main Company in 2017, was promoted to Demi-Soloist in 2022, and to Soloist in 2023.

During the journey, she has learned how to trust the process. “As long as you can reflect back on each day and say, ‘I have given my all towards achieving my own personal goal for the day, I have learned something new that I can carry forward with me, and I have put 100 percent into what I’m trying to accomplish,’ then you can have a sense of peace letting everything else unfold the way that it’s supposed to,” said Pool.

“I think the tendency for dancers is to overthink and to allow perfectionism to come into play. I have definitely struggled with obtaining perfection, but I have come to the realization that perfection does not exist, and therefore should not be my end goal. There is beauty in the low moments of this career. It provides a teaching moment that I can grow from which I think actually accelerates me towards the end goal of my dream.”

She recommends straying true to who you are and putting your best foot forward every day, recognizing that there will be some trials and tribulations, but as long as one feels good about the work they’ve done, just let the process unfold on its own.

Another aspect of ballet she has learned over the years is how to act. “Ballet is not just dancing. You are often playing a character. I don’t think people understand that the acting side of things also takes just as much effort, if not more, to study how you are going to portray your character on stage, especially if you didn’t grow up studying acting,” Pool said.

“Rehearsing that aspect of your role is very time consuming. For instance, interpreting a young girl in love, and how that would read on my face, or how my body language would be in a real-life situation feeling those things. Learning how to portray and embody that character I think is the most important thing so that the audience understands the storyline and can go on the journey with you.”

The audience also may not realize the stamina it takes to perform lengthy pas de deux, such as her recent performance during Act II of Dracula. “I was nervous because it was the longest pas de deux and variation in total that I have ever danced on stage so far,” she said. In order to prepare, in addition to regular rehearsals, she and her partner, David Huffmire, practiced on their own during breaks in their day.

“It’s probably one of the most nerve-racking moments for dancers when you hear the beginning notes of the music and you know here comes one of the longest dances, and you hope the audience doesn’t realize how strenuous it is and that we are dying up there,” said Pool. “What was hard about that one is that I couldn’t leave the stage during the male variation, so I was trying not to look like I was exhausted while remaining in character when all you want to do is run off stage, get a sip of water, inhale and exhale, or do a stretch.”