Selma Jeanne Cohen

Selma Jeanne Cohen

Selma Jeanne Cohen (September 18, 1920 – December 23, 2005) was a dance historian, editor, and teacher who devoted her career to advocating dance as an art worthy of the same scholarly respect traditionally awarded to painting, music, and literature. She edited the six-volume International Encyclopedia of Dance, completed in 1998.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, she was a dance critic for the New York Times and the Saturday Review. She also wrote and edited several books and taught at many colleges, including the University of Chicago. She died of Alzheimer’s disease in Greenwich Village, New York on December 23 2005, aged 85.

Cohen was the niece of Benjamin V. Cohen, a key figure in the administrations of United States Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.


  • [o]pen to the world, she was able to attune American scholars to seeing beyond national borders


The Society of Dance History Scholars (SDHS) established the Selma Jeanne Cohen Award for exemplary student dance scholarship in her honor in 1995.



  • Dance As a Theatre Art: Source Readings in Dance History from 1581 to the Present (co-editor)
  • Doris Humphrey: An Artist First (editor)
  • International Encyclopedia of Dance (editor)
  • Next Week, Swan Lake: Reflections on Dance and Dances


  • Dance Perspectives (founding editor)


  • "The Achievement of Martha Graham" (Chrysalis 11, mos. 5–6 (1958))


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