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“…she is also devoted to them, and her eyes light up when she discusses the individual dancers…and the cooperative relationship that exists among them all.”Dorothy Samachson, 1971


Upon moving to Chicago in 1942, Sybil not only taught college classes, but also started children’s classes at the Winnetka Community House on the North Shore. By 1951 the Sybil Shearer School of Dance totaled some 3,000 students, with branches in Evanston, Wilmette, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Northbrook, Glenview, Prairie View, and Milwaukee. On Saturday mornings Sybil taught a master lesson for instructors at Winnetka and then visited schools during the week.

 Some of the original students from her School of Dance stayed with her, and Sybil began choreographing for groups with these older dancers. In 1956 they performed two ambitious dances: Mysterium Tremendum, and Snow Melts on the Heart.

“Stamping Won’t Dent the World” from Fables and Proverbs, 1960

In anticipating a new work, Within This Thicket, Sybil realized she needed more advanced dancers, so she disbanded her amateur group in 1957 and began auditions. Along with the best from her previous group, a full complement of more experienced dancers performed this work at the Winnetka Community House in 1959, receiving excellent reviews. This was the forerunner of the Sybil Shearer Dance Company.

In planning her next program, Fables and Proverbs, Sybil was fortunate when Father John J. Walsh of Marquette University in Milwaukee brought a gifted student of his to work with her. JOHN NEUMEIER was a modest young man, interested in all sides of theater – dance, drama, costumes, and music. Sybil liked him very much. At the time she could not know that they would become lifelong friends and that he would rise to become the renowned director of the Hamburg Ballet in Germany.

John Neumeier, 1961
Tom Jaremba, Toby Nicholson, Masao, and Sybil in “Wherever the Web and the Tendril”, 1964.

Besides Neumeier, Sybil discovered two other young men, TOBY NICHOLSON and TOM JAREMBA, who along with MASAO YOSHIMASU, already a group member, made a wonderful combination of differences which were just what she needed for the dance she was choreographing.

On the distaff side, PAT GROENSHELBEE MATISNAN BUCKDINAH CODYLILLIAN LIPSON, and JOAN EHEMANN made up the roster of the Sybil Shearer Dance Company, which first performed Fables and Proverbs in April, 1961, at the Winnetka Community House. These and all future Company programs incorporated solos by Sybil Shearer, as was expected by her audiences.

In 1962 Sybil became Artist-in-Residence at National College of Education in Evanston, and the Company began performing at the College’s Arnold Theater. There they continued to perform new programs until their final performance in 1972 at the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place in Chicago.