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Chicago, Illinois 60616
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February 23, 2012

Sybil Shearer (1912-2005)

Today marks what would have been Sybil Shearer’s 100th birthday. Sybil Shearer (1912-2005) was a leading pioneer of modern dance and arguably one of the finest dancers of the 20th century. Shortly after a critically acclaimed solo debut at Carnegie Hall in 1941, Sybil moved to Chicago and developed a studio in Northbrook, where she worked independently, close to nature, and in her own unorthodox way. Soon after her move, she met photographer, Helen Balfour Morrison (1901-1984), who became her lighting director, photographer, filmographer, and artistic collaborator for the next forty years.

CFA houses and manages the Morrison-Shearer film collection on behalf of the Morrison-Shearer Foundation (founded in 1991). The collection contains just under 900 films and audio reels, the majority of which document the creative process and fruitful collaboration between Helen Morrison and Sybil Shearer. The collection itself includes complete works, rehearsal footage, production materials as well as a hand full of home movies and interviews.

Just this past month we completed the hand inspection and archival re-housing of the collection’s 16mm. film elements (totaling just over 400 reels). We are now onto digitally transferring these 16mm. film elements and beginning to discover (as well as understand) this largely unpublished and unknown collection of films.

To celebrate Sybil and what would have been her 100th birthday (February 23, 2012), we have put together a sequence of some of our favorite film segments – all from the reel titled EARLY NORTHBROOK.


Also! Hear Sybil in her own words! you can view an excerpt from a 1980 interview between Sybil Shearer and dance critic Walter Terry here.