“It was also [Helen’s] decision that I should write, and this fell into place like all her other decisions, as though she had waved a wand.”

Sybil Shearer, introduction to Without Wings the Way Is Steep, Vol III
Sybil's choice of cover photo for Volume I, as thinker and writer.

Sybil majored in English literature at Skidmore College and always enjoyed writing long substantive letters. Her archives include a few examples of poems, creative writing, and letters to herself describing her thoughts. After Helen’s death she became a serious dance critic, writing for Ballet Review and other publications. She also wrote her three-volume autobiography, Without Wings the Way Is Steep.

Without Wings the Way Is Steep, The Autobiography of Sybil Shearer: Volumes I, II and III

Autobiography

In early 1994, Sybil Shearer started writing her autobiography, just three months after it was suggested that if she would allow no one else to write her biography, she must do it herself. Bringing out her voluminous files, she began in her inimitable longhand. She was 82. Masao Yoshimasu, one of her principal dancers who was living at her house took on the monumental job of putting it all into the computer as she wrote.

In the end there were thousands of typed pages, a veritable archive in itself, divided into three volumes. Her unexpected demise in 2005 left the unfinished books in the hands of the Morrison-Shearer Foundation’s Trustees, whose determination to complete the work has been dedicated and unflagging. Volume I was issued in 2006, Volume II in 2012, and Volume III in 2020.

Other Writings

After Helen died, Sybil discovered her strong abilities as a critic and was soon writing regularly for Ballet Review and occasionally for other dance publications. Sybil and Francis Mason (editor of Ballet Review) became good friends, and much of their correspondence appears in Volume III of Sybil’s autobiography. Mason’s letters reflect the respect he gave to Sybil’s contributions and her often singular opinions.