Selma Jeanne Cohen

Selma Jeanne Cohen transformed the field of dance by giving critics and historians the language to discuss the nuances of performance and choreography.

Cohen studied ballet at the University of Chicago before earning a PhD in English literature there in 1946. She brought this dual training to her work teaching dance at Hunter College to future choreographers Arthur Mitchell, Bruce Marks, and Eliot Field before moving to the University of California at Riverside, where she helped create the graduate program and taught for more than twenty years. In 1970, she created a program that trained journalists as dance critics. Cohen also began writing extensively about dance theory in an effort to have the field taken seriously as a scholarly field, and founded Dance Perspectives, the journal which set the standard in the field, before editing The International Encyclopedia of Dance, which offered an overview of all aspects of dance around the world. She served on the boards of the American Society for Theater Research and the American Society for Aesthetics, founded the Society of Dance History Scholars, and received the first Dance Magazine Award ever given to a dance historian.


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Selma Jeanne Cohen's Encyclopedia of Dance.

Date of Birth

Chicago, IL
United States

Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Selma Jeanne Cohen." (Viewed on October 22, 2020) <>.


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