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Sybil Shearer Fellowship at Ragdale

The Sybil Shearer Fellowship at Ragdale supports an individual choreographer and/or dance artist by offering an 18-day or 25-day residency in the Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale along with a cash stipend of $1,000, the creation of a brief video documentary/interview, and the presentation of a public program. The residency may be awarded to a collaborative duo if they share a live/work studio.

The Sybil Shearer Fellowship at Ragdale began in 2016 and is given annually by the Morrison-Shearer Foundation.

Photo: Ricardo Adame


Sybil Shearer Fellowship at Ragdale: 2024

During her residency fellowship at Ragdale, Ayako Kato will be working on ETHOS IV: Degrowth/Cycle/Rebirth, an evening-length piece created to shift focus from human-centered, capitalistic ways of being to a more symbiotic, nature-centered way of being. It will be premiered at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago on April 19 and 20, 2024 as part of its Chicago Artist Spotlight Festival commemorating the Dance Center’s 50th Season.



Sybil Shearer Fellowship at Ragdale: 2023

Award winning choreographer, Stephanie Martinez, has been selected as the second recipient of the Sybil Shearer Fellowship for an artist’s residency in the new Sybil Shearer Studio at Ragdale. Stephanie is the Founder and Artistic Director of PARA.MAR Dance Theatre in Chicago.

Through this fellowship, Stephanie will explore the work of Chilean poet and scholar Gabriela Mistral as a companion to her most recently completed work, Dos Lados, which she began working on 6 years ago through Ballet Hispanico’s Instituto Coreográfico. Now realized as a full-length contemporary ballet, Dos Lados explores the conflict between the public and private self and the stories we are “allowed” to tell. The piece recently enjoyed its first fully-staged production at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre.


Photo: Enki Andrews


Sybil Shearer Fellowship at Ragdale: 2022

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.



Sybil Shearer Fellowship at Ragdale: 2019

The 2019 fellowship was awarded to Rena Butler, a multi-disciplinary artist based in Chicago and New York City. Having trained at the Chicago Academy of the Arts and studied at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan, she received her BFA from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance in New York. MSF Trustee Shayne Bullen, Chair of the Sybil Shearer Fellowship Committee, reports, “Rena best fit our criteria for representing MSF and the Fellowship at Ragdale. It was our pleasure to review the candidates, as they all exhibited a high level of talent, skill, and artistic expression.”



Sybil Shearer Fellowship at Ragdale: 2018

Brittany Harlin is the founding artistic director of Chicago Urban Dance Collective and 2017 recipient of the Chicago Dancemakers Forum Lab Artist Award . Her influences are Hip Hop and Modern Dance Pioneers. In addition to company work, her dancing and choreography has been featured at Ragdale Foundation, Links Hall, Elastic Arts, Aragon Ballroom, DRAMA Duo Music Productions, Black Ensemble Theatre, and Hip Hop International. Brittany’s focus is Hip Hop, Modern, Funk Styles, Waacking, and House, combined with growing knowledge of somatics and kinesiology, all through the concert dance lens. Her goal is to bring dance education to a place of complete body awareness, spiritual expression, and connection. Brittany hopes to establish her practice in expressive therapy, creating opportunities, and inclusiveness.



Sybil Shearer Fellowship at Ragdale: 2017

MSF awarded a Sybil Shearer Fellowship at Ragdale to J’Sun Howard, a Chattanooga native and Chicago-based dancemaker and poet. At the conclusion of his residency, J’Sun wrote, “I’ve had a productive time doing movement research and creating a solo for a larger project, ‘Working on Better Versions of Prayers,’ which is about radical hope, intimacy between men, and joy. The dedicated time and space provided by the Sybil Shearer Fellowship through Ragdale has been valuable and meaningful, especially as I am discovering ways to balance, challenge, and invent choreographic methods that incorporate poetry into my artistic practice.”

J’Sun Howard is a Chicago-based dancemaker, writer, curator, and administrator who was awarded an inaugural 2020 Esteemed Artist Award from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and is an Asian Cultural Council Fellow.



Sybil Shearer Fellowship at Ragdale: 2016

The 2016 fellowship was awarded to dance artist Jessica Cornish. At the conclusion of her residency in September she wrote to MSF in part: “My time at Ragdale is unlike anything I have experienced before and was challenging in all the best ways. It is opportunities like this that make such a wild career sustainable. I was able to work with an incredible musician, and new collaborations with some of the writers and artists here at Ragdale have sprung up…Thank you again and again for everything you do.”

Jessica Cornish is a dance artist based in Chicago Illinois and has shown work in China, Hong Kong, India, Berlin, Italy, Amsterdam, Chile, Louisiana, New York City and Chicago. Along with her solo practice, Cornish works with a wide range of collaborators in different disciplines and uses her ever-changing environments as sustenance to create.