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April 26, 2019

The Morrison-Shearer Foundation gifts their dance media collection to Chicago Film Archives

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Sybil Shearer performing in Early Northbrook (circa 1956)

Chicago Film Archives is enormously pleased to announce the gifting of the Morrison-Shearer Foundation dance media collection to CFA. Our relationship with the Trustees and staff at the Foundation has been lengthy and has deepened considerably over the past ten years. Our combined inquiry, research, conservation work and collaboration has culminated in a profound mutual respect not only for the works in the collection, but for the interests, expertise and passions of all the individuals at both the Morrison-Shearer Foundation and Chicago Film Archives.

The Morrison-Shearer Foundation collection is comprised of unique and original film materials that reflect the artistry of photographer/filmmaker Helen Balfour Morrison and choreographer/dancer, Sybil Shearer. As a young dancer, Shearer dwelled deeply and thoroughly in the modernist dance movement taking shape in New York City, but began to forge her own creative path, pushing choreographic boundaries in new directions. In 1942 she moved to Chicago to teach and work close to nature, preferring the wide-open Midwest environment. It was here that she met the photographer Helen Balfour Morrison who became Shearer’s artistic collaborator. Morrison became skilled in using the motion camera not only to document Shearer’s work, but also to respond to and harmonize with the dancer she filmed.

The fortuitous and spiritual convergence of these two artists is fully expressed in this collection. Had they not met, this collection of dual motion-based artistry would not exist…their individual work perhaps barely known. These films are extraordinary because of the synthesis of artistry that emanates from both sides of the camera. We think of these films as poems.

Critic Walter Terry has called Shearer “one of the world’s foremost modern dancers and choreographers” of her time.

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Sybil Shearer in the center, performing with her company in Northbrook (circa 1957)

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Sybil Shearer performing in Early Northbrook (circa 1956)

We encourage you to read and learn more about the Morrison-Shearer Foundation here. To learn more about the collection and view some of the dances performed by Shearer and her company of dancers, please find the Morrison-Shearer finding aid on Chicago Film Archives’ website here.

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