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Brenda Dixon Gottschild

Trained in classical ballet, Williams-Yarborough performed in musical comedy and modern dance before turning to African-derived, New World dance forms as a means of reaffirming her cultural heritage. Following Katherine Dunham and Jean-Léon Destiné, she combined the religious and folkloric dances of the Caribbean—particularly those of Haiti—with European forms of theatrical dance and created a syncretic, contemporary, theatrical black dance style. She also helped to establish national dance academies in Haiti, Jamaica, Guyana, and the Bahamas.

Raised in Portsmouth, Virginia, and Brooklyn, New York, Williams-Yarborough began studying ballet when she was three years old. Tap, modern, acrobatics, singing, and acting classes soon followed. She graduated from Washington Irving High School in New York City and won a scholarship to the Art Students' League. Her dance teachers included Kay Perper (Denishawn School), Anna Sokolow, Martha Graham, Agnes de Mille, Katherine Dunham, Valerie Bettis, Lisan Kay, Helen ...