Stephanie Selby, 56, ‘A Pretty Young Dancer’ Who Encouraged Many, Dies

Ora Sawyers

Stephanie Selby, who was the large-profile subject matter of “A Quite Younger Dancer,” a e-book that influenced a technology of would-be ballerinas and upcoming dance stars, but who abruptly dropped out of the ballet globe and disappeared from see, died on Feb. 3 in Cody, Wyo. She was 56.

The trigger was difficulties of an obvious attempt to conclusion her everyday living, reported Howell Howard, a cousin.

At 10, Ms. Selby was residing the desire of numerous aspiring dancers, taking classes at the College of American Ballet in Manhattan, the prestigious ballet academy established by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein and the training floor for Balanchine’s New York Metropolis Ballet.

In 1975, the photographer Jill Krementz, renowned for her illustrations or photos of well known authors and for composing children’s textbooks for which she also took the images, visited the school. She felt she experienced stepped into a Degas portray and immediately realized she required to build a e book. She watched auditions, she claimed in an interview, and when Stephanie was selected for the lead job of Marie in “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” Ms. Krementz recognized that she experienced identified her subject matter — and an enchanting one particular at that.

She followed Stephanie for a yr and generated a rare, in depth driving-the-scenes portrait of the everyday living of a younger dancer. It was many years ahead of actuality tv or Instagram would demystify these kinds of personal areas.

Ms. Krementz captured Ms. Selby in schedule maneuvers, like heat-up physical exercises at the barre, and in dream-arrive-real moments, like dancing onstage at Lincoln Centre as Marie.

“A Pretty Youthful Dancer” (1976) leapt on to The New York Times’s children’s best-vendor record. Fan mail poured in. Ms. Selby appeared on the “Today” demonstrate and a one particular-hour “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” Christmas specific. And she fueled the imaginations of other young dancers.

“I keep in mind poring above every single phrase and especially every single photograph in the ebook,” Dena Abergel, who study it when she was 7, recalled by e mail. “I entirely discovered with Stephanie and hoped to live in her ballet entire world one particular day.” She did, coaching at the Faculty of American Ballet, turning into a dancer with New York City Ballet and originating a selection of roles there. She now serves as children’s repertory director for the business.

But just as Ms. Selby was supplying hope to aspiring ballerinas that they, way too, could attain the pinnacle, her individual dance occupation came to an abrupt conclude.

Inspite of the pleasure she discovered in dance, she was not often enamored of the dance daily life. She located the schooling laborous. She usually obtained headaches, she experienced extreme, unexcused absences, and she would make impolite gestures toward instructors she felt were being pushing her also really hard. Her star transform with Metropolis Ballet onstage counted for naught in the classroom. The summertime prior to Stephanie turned 13, the faculty questioned her to withdraw. She was devastated.

Admitting that she had been rejected would be humiliating. Stephanie was not just another younger woman who made the decision that the boot-camp-like needs of dance were being not for her she was the heroine of a beloved book that had elevated her to unimaginable heights.

She made the decision, with her mother’s assist, that alternatively than expose her rejection, she would inform men and women that she had give up. She preferred to go to school, she would say dance would only get in the way.

That was the tale she informed for a long time, till a Periods reporter, Helene Stapinski, tracked her down in Wyoming in 2011 and wrote an short article about Ms. Selby’s life. “Stephanie acknowledges that she may well have experienced difficulties in everyday living irrespective of her affiliation with ballet and the book,” Ms. Stapinski wrote, “but claims her expertise as a boy or girl no doubt contributed to her despair afterwards in lifestyle.”

Stephanie Mary Selby was born on Oct. 14, 1965, in Manhattan. Her father, Frederick, who went by Fritz, was an investment decision banker and an adventurer. Her mom, Linn (Howard) Selby, who had analyzed modern-day dance, carried on the household tradition of installing the once-a-year Neapolitan crèche and Xmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork.

Stephanie’s dad and mom divorced when she and her older siblings, Andrea and Christopher, were being very younger. All 4 survive her.

The family lived on the Higher East Facet and used summers on a relatives ranch in Cody, in northwest Wyoming, where Stephanie rode horses and reveled in the outside.

In Manhattan, she fell in really like with ballet early and adopted her sister to the University of American Ballet, auditioning effectively at 8. With her very long chestnut hair, Stephanie experienced an rigorous magnificence, Andrea Selby stated in an interview, incorporating, “She glowed from the soul.”

“A Extremely Youthful Dancer,” written by Ms. Krementz in Stephanie’s voice, gives a functioning commentary on what it feels like to be in Stephanie’s ballet slippers, accompanied by much more than 100 internet pages of black-and-white images. They incorporate photos of Stephanie operating with “Mr. B.,” as she and other individuals in his circle identified as Balanchine, who taught her how to faint on a mattress with out hurting herself.

“She obtained so well known so rapidly,” her sister explained. “Every little one had this e book, and almost everywhere we went — every single teacher we experienced in school, the mother and father of our friends — all people assumed she would be a prima ballerina when she grew up.”

Practically no just one understood that on the inside, Ms. Selby was having difficulties.

“When I did the ebook about Stephanie, there ended up countless numbers of 10-year-outdated-women who could only consider a life like hers,” Ms. Krementz mentioned in an e mail. “Little did they dream, nor did I, that she was presently battling demons which would haunt her for the relaxation of her lifetime.”

When Ms. Selby left the ballet school, she blended again into her courses at the all-girls Convent of the Sacred Coronary heart on the Upper East Aspect right before attending Wesleyan University. She graduated in 1989 with a major in religion.

As she experimented with to deal with her despair, she was recommended numerous medicines and sought psychiatric assist, although only for a time.

She had often liked animals, especially horses, and worked briefly as a mounted city park ranger in New York. She later on lived on and off at a monastery in Connecticut, where she milked cows, figured out Latin, drove a tractor, prayed and meditated.

In the late 1990s she moved to Cambridge, Mass., where by she worked with the homeless and with people today in disaster. “She had this burden she had been born with — despair,” her sister said. “She had a tricky time residing her daily life on life’s conditions. But she built it her mission to assistance other individuals who suffered.”

Ms. Selby moved to Wyoming complete time in 2007 to oversee a property her mom was developing. Whilst in a Bible study group she satisfied John DePierro, whom she married. He worked as a prepare dinner, builder, taxidermist and plumber, and she worked in a flower store. They later on divorced.

Dwelling in Cody, Ms. Selby took on work as a cook dinner, a tutorial and a wrangler with quite a few pack excursion outfitters. For a time, she worked in wellness care and at the energy-market conglomerate Halliburton, in nearby Powell, Wyo. And she volunteered at a Native American reservation near Cody, in which she served little ones with crafts and led Bible university courses.

She was also an active member of Streams of Daily life, a small evangelical church in Cody. Pete, an Australian sheep pet who was her therapy companion, was often nearby, both ready for her outside the house the church or sneaking in to retain an eye on her. Pete was ailing and was just lately place down, a traumatic reduction for Ms. Selby, the church’s pastor, Ron Kingston, reported in an interview.

Though she was a extensive way from Lincoln Middle, Ms. Selby continue to cherished to dance, albeit in a much less regimented manner than when she was a student. On situation throughout church providers, Mr. Kingston reported, she would come up and move with the music in a free-type type.

“She was spontaneous,” he stated. “She put her thoughts in motion, and she was totally free.”

If you are owning thoughts of suicide, in the United States phone the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (Discuss) or go to for a listing of added sources. Go listed here for assets exterior the United States.

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