The Morrison-Shearer Foundation Announces the Release of “The Reality Beyond Realism”

The Morrison-Shearer Foundation has announced the release of “The Reality Beyond Realism,” the third volume of contemporary dance legend Sybil Shearer’s autobiography, “Without Wings The Way is Steep.”

“This vivid documentation of the life of Sybil Shearer is the best kind of testament to the power of the arts,” says Ronne Hartfield, former Director of Museum Education at the The Art Institute of Chicago. “It is an exemplary life story, confirming her place in the history of dance, a legacy for the ages.”   

This final volume of Sybil Shearer’s autobiography covers the years 1985-2004 and is the successor to Volume I, “Within This Thicket” (2006) covering her life from 1905 to 1941 and Volume II, “The Midwest Inheritance” (2012) covering her life from 1942 to1984.  

“Sybil’s autobiography is an independent woman’s voice making sense of her time, from a tangential place, creating self-referential art all along,” says Joseph Houseal, Director of Core of Culture Dance Preservation. 

“What a third act!” says Margo Viscusi, President Emerita of Poets House, New York, and student of Sybil Shearer. “Already in her seventies, she created an astonishingly rich new life as an original and outspoken dance critic, a student of philosophy and spirituality, a sought-after public speaker, and an impresario. This is a unique account of late-life success.”  

Sybil Shearer, who died in 2005 at age 93, was an original, and her unconventional autobiography comprises an archive in three volumes; a chronological mélange of reflections, correspondence, reviews, and other writings. Volume III is about her later years in Northbrook, Illinois, a bucolic suburb north of Chicago, from 1985 to 2004 as a critic, writer, and anthroposophist after the death of long-time collaborator, Helen Balfour Morrison. In Morrison’s last year she prodded Sybil to write about a Martha Graham performance and submit it to Ballet Review. Thus began the letters with Ballet Review editor Francis Mason, one of three extraordinary correspondences in this volume. Around this time Shearer began to study anthroposophy, a formal educational, therapeutic, and creative system established by Rudolf Steiner, which she called “a science of the spirit.” 

“As a eurythmist, I’ve often wished for some unadulterated feedback from a dance performer who has a deep experiential understanding of the forces at play in all artistic human movement. This is it,” observes Jonathan Snow, Movement and Eurythmy instructor at the Toronto Waldorf School. 

In 1989 Shearer began forming the Morrison-Shearer Foundation to perpetuate Morrison’s and her artistic legacy. Completing the publication of Sybil’s three volume autobiography was a responsibility of the Morrison-Shearer Foundation. “It is our hope that dancers and non-dancers alike will find reading her full set an invaluable opportunity to see the full arc of a dancer’s life and find inspiration therein,” says Alida Szabo, Morrison-Shearer Foundation Board President.  

“Without Wings The Way is Steep, The Autobiography of Sybil Shearer, Volume III: The Reality Beyond Realism.” MSF Books; On sale: June 30, 2021. Hard cover. Price: $30.00 for Vol. III only; $60 for three-volume boxed set. For more information, email Scott Lundius at slundius@morrisonshearer.org.