I vividly remember the first time I saw this book, A Very Young Dancer. It was a rainy October afternoon and I must have been about ten years old. I pulled it off the shelf in the Bookmobile, which was parked in its customary spot in the far corner of the Save-Easy lot, and sat right down on the floor of the bus there and then and read it all the way through. I didn't take it out, though. While it did make me yearn for a life of serious purpose and beauty -- and of course the applause of an appreciative audience in a fancy theatre -- I knew that ballet wasn't for me. I was already too old to ever learn it properly. And even at that age I had an inkling that I had the wrong body type. (It wasn't until I reached adulthood that I realized I'm a total klutz anyway.) But it was a captivating, mesmerizing book of photography and it cast a spell on a lot of little girls who started ballet lessons in the 70s and 80s. The book catapulted its subject, the young ballerina Stephanie, into instant fame. That fame made things difficult for her when, at the age of 13, she was asked to leave the School of American Ballet. She has only now, at the age of 46, come to terms with it. Via A Cup of Jo.
Incidentally, Jill Krementz, is Kurt Vonnegut's widow, and she published a whole series of these A Very Young Whatever books. What happened to the rest of them?
Stephanie's story reminds me -- just a little -- of Emma Ridley's. Ridley played Ozma in Return to Oz, a movie that has been in constant rotation in this house, as the kids are fascinated with all things Oz. I knew that Fairuza Balk, who played Dorothy in it, continues to work as an actor as an adult but I wondered about Emma, who is startlingly beautiful in the film. Apparently she was a fixture on the London nightclub scene for six months in her early teens in the 80s, stripping on tables while carrying a teddy bear. She married a much older man at the age of 15 and then disappeared. She now lives on a farm in California with her two children, is an evangelical Christian like Stephanie, and has a dance fitness business.