The Morrison-Shearer Foundation perpetuates the legacy of dancer-choreographer Sybil Shearer and photographer Helen Balfour Morrison as an inspiration for new creativity in the arts.

Legacy

Sybil Shearer

Honoring artistic creativity that inspires beauty, excitement, experiment, and mastery

Arts

Helen Balfour Morrison

Valuing all arts as expressions of wonder, feeling, joy, inquiry, and transformation

Innovation

New Creativity

Searching the imagination for connections to feed the spirit and enhance our humanity

Volume III of Sybil Shearer’s Autobiography

Volume III of Sybil Shearer’s autobiography, Without Wings the Way Is Steep: The Reality Beyond Realism, holds insights by the 20th Century modern dance pioneer during her later years, living alone in Northbrook (1985-2004) as critic, writer, and Anthroposophist. In it, her two worlds — dance and Anthroposophy — are melded through reflections, reviews, and three extraordinary correspondences: with Ballet Review editor Francis Mason, Waldorf educator and astronomer Norman Davidson, and biodynamic farmer and eurythmist Marjorie Spock. Also important is her connection with John Neumeier, former student and longtime director of the Hamburg Ballet. With this volume, Sybil’s autobiography is complete, revealing her genius as thinker, modern dance pioneer, spiritual seeker, writer, friend, and warm human being. One reader’s comment was, “What a third act!”

Purchase Volume III, The Reality Beyond Realism

More Information: The Autobiography of Sybil Shearer, in Three Volumes

The Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale

After several years of working in close collaboration with the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, the newly built Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale has opened. As part of the House of Dance and Music, the studio provides an inspiring space for creativity in dance and movement – a living legacy of Sybil Shearer and Helen Balfour Morrison.
 
The partnership  marked the opening of the Studio with “Space to Move,” a celebratory event held on National Dance Day, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. The event featured a promenade-style dance performance, directed by Kristina Isabelle, that led guests through the late summer gardens of the Ragdale campus to the site of the new Sybil Shearer Studio.
 
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After several years of working in close collaboration with the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, the newly built Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale has opened. As part of the House of Dance and Music, the studio provides an inspiring space for creativity in dance and movement – a living legacy of Sybil Shearer and Helen Balfour Morrison.
 
The partnership  marked the opening of the Studio with “Space to Move,” a celebratory event held on National Dance Day, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. The event featured a promenade-style dance performance, directed by Kristina Isabelle, that led guests through the late summer gardens of the Ragdale campus to the site of the new Sybil Shearer Studio.
 
The construction of the House of Dance and Music was made possible by a $1.5 million, one-time grant to Ragdale from the Morrison-Shearer Foundation, along with an additional $400,000 raised by Ragdale. The campus is located on the verdant 5-acre historic grounds of the former country estate of architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, not far from Lake Michigan, approximately 30 miles north of Chicago.
 

The Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale brings about the realization of the dream of modern dance pioneer Sybil Shearer (1912 – 2005) and her longtime artistic collaborator, photographer Helen Balfour Morrison (1901 – 1984). Shearer and Balfour Morrison envisioned creating a tranquil location where artists could hone their skills and advance their artistic self-expression free from distractions.

The state-of-the-art Sybil Shearer Studio and adjacent composer’s studio provides artists with space for contemplative creativity and the opportunity to explore their practice within a group of other artists with housing and meals provided during their residency.

The roughly 2,500 square foot building houses both the Sybil Shearer Studio and a composer’s studio. The Sybil Shearer Studio space boasts a 30’ x 50’ sprung wood floor, flexible lighting options, and audio-visual equipment. Both studios are accompanied by fully accessible, private sleeping spaces and bathrooms. A key design element of the Sybil Shearer Studio is a series of large windows that immerse resident artists in expansive views of nature as Shearer experienced in her original Northbrook studio.

The House of Dance and Music was designed by Woodhouse Tinucci Architects; the general contractor for the project was Jake Goldberg of Goldberg General Contracting, Inc. and landscape design was by Rosborough Partners, Inc.

For information on Ragdale’s Residency and Fellowship programs, visit their website at https://www.ragdale.org/

A Space to Create

A Space to Create is a visually stunning, poetic and complex sixteen-minute film that tells the remarkable story of Sybil Shearer and Helen Balfour Morrison. As artful as the work of these two artists themselves, the film itself is in motion and exquisitely complements the visuals of Helen Balfour Morrison and the choreography of Sybil Shearer.

A committee of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, chaired by Liz Kidera, commissioned Bob Hercules and Media Process Group to create a short film about the work of these two pioneering female artists. This story of Shearer’s original Northbrook dance studio, and the decisions that led the Morrison-Shearer Foundation to build the Sybil Shearer Dance Studio at Ragdale, herald the creation of a new arts resource for dance in the United States.

S P O T L I G H T

Nejla Yatkin

Sybil Shearer Fellowship Awarded to Nejla Yatkin

Chicago-based choreographer, Nejla Yatkin, has been awarded the first Sybil Shearer Fellowship in the new Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale to be scheduled during spring 2022. During her residency, Nejla will develop a new piece entitled A Dance For A Time Being; a video and augmented reality dance project for 6 dancers over 60. The project celebrates and brings awareness to aging through an exploration of how our identity is shaped by place and community and how one’s sense of self evolves over a lifetime.

Yatkin writes, “Dancers' bodies, like trees, accumulate wisdom and knowledge throughout years of training and living—a wealth that is overlooked because dance is popularly seen as an artform of youth. With this project, I intend to make the gains of age visible through the art of movement in public places.”

“A Dance For A Time Being explores the aging body and place; revealing the traces we leave behind in the spaces we move in. I will collaborate with 6 BIPOC dancers over 60 in 6 different neighborhoods in Chicago; including artists with Black, Latin, Asian, Middle Eastern and Indigenous identities who will dance at outdoor sites meaningful to them in their communities.

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Chicago-based choreographer, Nejla Yatkin, has been awarded the first Sybil Shearer Fellowship in the new Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale to be scheduled during spring 2022. During her residency, Nejla will develop a new piece entitled A Dance For A Time Being; a video and augmented reality dance project for 6 dancers over 60. The project celebrates and brings awareness to aging through an exploration of how our identity is shaped by place and community and how one’s sense of self evolves over a lifetime.

Yatkin writes, “Dancers' bodies, like trees, accumulate wisdom and knowledge throughout years of training and living—a wealth that is overlooked because dance is popularly seen as an artform of youth. With this project, I intend to make the gains of age visible through the art of movement in public places.”

“A Dance For A Time Being explores the aging body and place; revealing the traces we leave behind in the spaces we move in. I will collaborate with 6 BIPOC dancers over 60 in 6 different neighborhoods in Chicago; including artists with Black, Latin, Asian, Middle Eastern and Indigenous identities who will dance at outdoor sites meaningful to them in their communities.

The work will explore how identity is shaped by place and community; how one’s sense of self evolves over a lifetime; and how we make meaning out of life’s joys, tragedies, and everyday moments by celebrating and bringing awareness to the aging body in motion.

The ability of AR technology to permanently place dance in public spaces, adding dance to the existing array of public art, has yet to be fully exploited; this project makes gains in that area while juxtaposing concepts of aging body/old with technology/new. In addition, while choreographers have explored the aging body in various ways, this project makes a special study of the relationship of a body to a place where it lives, arguing that a body is not separate from its environment. In Western society we like to hide aging—this project invites us to appreciate its creative potential.”