Stephanie Selby, Ballerina Who Impressed Many, Dies at 57

Stephanie Selby, who was the high-profile topic of “A Very Younger Dancer,” a e book that impressed a technology of would-be ballerinas and future dance stars, however who abruptly dropped out of the ballet world and disappeared from view, died on Feb. 3 in Cody, Wyo. She was 56.

The trigger was problems of an obvious try to finish her life, mentioned Howell Howard, a cousin.

At 10, Ms. Selby was dwelling the dream of many aspiring dancers, taking classes on the College of American Ballet in Manhattan, the celebrated ballet academy based by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein and the coaching floor for Balanchine’s New York Metropolis Ballet.

In 1975, the photographer Jill Krementz, famend for her photographs of well-known authors and for writing youngsters’s books for which she additionally took the pictures, visited the college. She felt she had stepped right into a Degas portray and instantly knew she wished to create a e book. She watched auditions, she mentioned in an interview, and when Stephanie was chosen for the lead function of Marie in “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” Ms. Krementz realized she had discovered her topic — and a fascinating one at that.

She adopted Stephanie for a yr and produced a uncommon, detailed behind-the-scenes portrait of the lifetime of a younger dancer. It was a long time earlier than actuality tv or Instagram would demystify such personal areas.

Ms. Krementz captured Ms. Selby in routine maneuvers, like warm-up workouts on the barre, and in dream-come-true moments, like dancing onstage at Lincoln Middle as Marie.

“A Very Younger Dancer” (1976) leapt onto The New York Instances’s youngsters’s best-seller checklist. Fan mail poured in. Ms. Selby appeared on the “In the present day” present and a one-hour “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” Christmas particular. And he or she fueled the imaginations of different younger dancers.

“I bear in mind poring over each phrase and particularly each {photograph} within the e book,” Dena Abergel, who learn it when she was 7, recalled by e mail. “I utterly recognized with Stephanie and hoped to stay in her ballet world in the future.” She did, coaching on the College of American Ballet, changing into a dancer with New York Metropolis Ballet and originating numerous roles there. She now serves as the kids’s ballet grasp for the corporate.

However simply as Ms. Selby was giving hope to aspiring ballerinas that they too might attain the head, her personal dance profession got here to an abrupt finish.

Regardless of the enjoyment she present in dance, she was not at all times enamored of the dance life. She discovered the coaching tedious. She typically bought complications, she had extreme unexcused absences, and she or he would make impolite gestures towards academics she felt had been pushing her too onerous. Her star flip with Metropolis Ballet onstage counted for naught within the classroom. The summer time earlier than Stephanie turned 13, the college requested her to withdraw. She was devastated.

Admitting that she had been rejected could be humiliating. Stephanie was not simply one other younger girl who determined that the boot-camp-like calls for of dance weren’t for her; she was the heroine of a beloved e book that had elevated her to unimaginable heights.

She determined, together with her mom’s assist, that reasonably than reveal her rejection, she would inform folks she had give up. She wished to go to school, she would say; dance would solely get in the way in which.

That was the story she informed for many years, till a Instances reporter tracked her down in Wyoming in 2011 and wrote an article about her rejection. “Stephanie acknowledges that she might need had troubles in life no matter her affiliation with ballet and the e book,” the article mentioned, “however says her expertise as a toddler little doubt contributed to her melancholy later in life.”

Stephanie Mary Selby was born on Oct. 14, 1965, in Manhattan. Her father, Frederick, who glided by Fritz, was an funding banker and an adventurer. Her mom, Linn (Howard) Selby, who had studied fashionable dance, carried on the family tradition of putting in the annual Neapolitan crèche and Christmas tree on the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork.

Stephanie’s mother and father divorced when she and her older siblings, Andrea and Christopher, had been very younger. All 4 survive her.

The household lived on the Higher East Aspect of Manhattan and spent summers on a household ranch in Cody, in northwest Wyoming, the place Stephanie rode horses and reveled within the open air.

In Manhattan, she fell in love with ballet early and adopted her sister to the College of American Ballet, auditioning efficiently at 8. Along with her lengthy chestnut hair, Stephanie had an intense magnificence, Andrea Selby mentioned in an interview, including, “She glowed from the soul.”

“A Very Younger Dancer,” written by Ms. Krementz in Stephanie’s voice, gives a operating commentary on what it feels prefer to be in Stephanie’s ballet slippers, accompanied by greater than 100 pages of black-and-white pictures. They embody photographs of her working with “Mr. B.,” as she and others in his circle known as Balanchine, who taught her how one can faint on a mattress with out hurting herself.

“She bought so well-known so quick,” her sister mentioned. “Each youngster had this e book, and in every single place we went, each instructor we had at school, the mother and father of our mates, everybody assumed she could be a prima ballerina when she grew up.”

Virtually nobody understood that on the within, Ms. Selby was struggling.

“After I did the e book about Stephanie, there have been hundreds of 10-year-old-girls who might solely think about a life like hers,” Ms. Krementz mentioned in an e mail. “Little did they dream, nor did I, that she was already battling demons which might hang-out her for the remainder of her life.”

When Ms. Selby left the ballet college, she blended again into her lessons on the all-girls Convent of the Sacred Coronary heart earlier than attending Wesleyan College. She graduated in 1989 with a serious in faith.

As she tried to take care of her melancholy, she was prescribed varied medicines and sought skilled psychiatric assist, although just for a time.

She had at all times liked animals, particularly horses, and labored briefly as a mounted city park ranger in New York. She later lived on and off at a monastery in Connecticut, the place she milked cows, discovered Latin, drove a tractor, prayed and meditated.

Within the late Nineteen Nineties she moved to Cambridge, Mass., the place she labored with the homeless and with folks in disaster. “She had this burden she had been born with — melancholy.,” her sister mentioned. “She had a tough time dwelling her life on life’s phrases. However she made it her mission to assist others who suffered.”

She moved to Wyoming full time in 2007 to supervise a home her mom was constructing. Whereas in a Bible examine group she met John DePierro, whom she married. He labored as a prepare dinner, builder, taxidermist and plumber, and she or he labored in a flower store. They later divorced.

Residing in Cody, she took on jobs as a prepare dinner, a information and a wrangler with a number of pack journey outfitters. For a time, she labored in well being care and on the energy-industry conglomerate Halliburton, in close by Powell, Wyo. And he or she volunteered at a Native American reservation close to Cody, the place she helped youngsters with crafts and led Bible college lessons.

She was additionally an lively member of Streams of Life, a small evangelical church in Cody. Pete, an Australian sheep canine who was her remedy companion, was at all times close by, both ready for her exterior the church or sneaking in to control her. Pete was ailing and was lately put down, a traumatic loss for Ms. Selby, the church’s pastor, Ron Kingston, mentioned in an interview.

Although she was a great distance from Lincoln Middle, she nonetheless liked to bounce, albeit in a much less regimented vogue than when she was a pupil. Occasionally throughout church companies, Pastor Kingston mentioned, she would come up and transfer with the music in a free-form model.

“She was spontaneous,” he mentioned. “She put her emotions in movement, and she or he was free.”

In case you are having ideas of suicide, in america name the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to for a listing of extra assets. Go here for assets exterior america. Stephanie Selby, Ballerina Who Impressed Many, Dies at 57

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