Darling Shear
Photo: Lisa Predko

Prepandemic, the classically trained dancer, who is gender nonconforming, brought their unique form of movement to spaces like Links Hall, the Den Theatre, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. “I have some set choreography, but I’m also an improvisationalist,” Shear says. “There are specific cues within the music, but otherwise I listen to my body about where it wants to go.” Touching on themes like technology addiction, queer sensuality, and childhood trauma, Shear has earned grants from 3Arts and Chicago Dancemakers Forum and a nod in Dance Spirit magazine in July as a dancer to follow.

Training routine

“I hate working out. But I love to move my body. I just dance all the time, at the club or around my house. I also love to walk. There’s a lot of beauty in the world. You can walk the same path multiple times and see something new each time.”

Flexibility fixes

“Some days I get out of bed, and ohhh, I need to stretch. I’ll sit in a pose called frog to open up my hips or do deep lunges for stretching the legs. Drawing the alphabet with your foot — that’s a nice exercise for the ankles.”

Dietary philosophy

“I try to eat joyously. My mother is a vegan chef, but I lived with my grandmother growing up, and she taught me to eat for nourishment. I’m bad about breakfast, but when I eat it, I often do a power bowl with some type of nut butter, granola, blueberries, bananas, along with coconut milk, almond milk, or yogurt. For lunch and dinner, a good chicken sandwich or a salad — I love the Shroomami salad at Sweetgreen — or sometimes I’m like, I’m going to eat a slice of pizza. But I can’t eat spicy foods or junk food in the evening because I’ll have weird dreams or night terrors.”


“Before the pandemic, I didn’t realize I was working so much. I was super strung out. As soon as the shutdown happened, I went into nature mode. Recently, I’ve been going to Palmer Square. There’s a really lovely tree. I’ve climbed up and stayed for two or three hours, doing work on my phone.”

Creative efficiency

“Certain physical aspects of classical training, I haven’t built up the tolerance for — like hook foot, a really defined arch. But I had teachers who said to me, ‘There are other ways for you to get that point across.’ I try to dance economically, which ends up causing less injury.”

Preshow preparation

“I worked with a choreographer named Lauri Stallings, who used to be a soloist for Hubbard Street. She taught us Gaga-technique warm-ups. You start to move your feet by rolling just the toe. You feel the energy rising up like warm oil, going into the ankle. From there, it moves up the backs of the legs and knees, all the way into the sitz bones. It softens your muscle fibers and connections, then slowly builds and gets bigger and bigger, until you can just leap up, like a cat.”