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The dancer from the dance

August 22, 2008 | 12:14 pm

Averyyoungdancer_2 The Washington Post has come up with a list of its five favorite books about ballet: "Balanchine's Complete Stories of the Great Ballets" by George Balanchine;  "A Dance Autobiography" by Natalia Makarova; "Dancing on My Grave" by Gelsey Kirkland; "Distant Dances" by Sono Osato; and "In a Rehearsal Room," photographs by Susan Cook, text by Robin Woodard.

I took one look at the list and thought of my favorite dance book, which had already made an appearance in the comments: "A Very Young Dancer" by Jill Krementz. Apparently I wasn't the only preadolescent ballerina who paged through this story in photographs and imagined that she, too, might get to be in an American Ballet Theater production of "The Nutcracker."

Reading it made me feel like I could step inside that world, that it really could be me in that girl's toe shoes (if only I could convince my parents to drive me to New York for an audition). "A Very Young Dancer" had a striking intimacy and immediacy. It was done by photojournalist Jill Krementz, who'd chronicled much harder stuff, including Vietnam in 1965.

Krementz did a series of "A Very Young" books, each a photo-focused story of a girl excelling in a different field -- gymnastics, horseback riding, ice skating. I would like to think that if she were to pick up her camera today, Krementz would try projects like "A Very Young BMX Biker," "A Very Young Surfer" or "A Very Young Street Skater."

While "A Very Young Dancer" is now out of print (copies can be found online, for $6 to $125), Krementz is still around; she's Kurt Vonnegut's widow.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

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