Elizabeth Zimmerman discusses the work of Selma Jeanne Cohen. Selma Jeanne Cohen almost singlehandedly delivered the discipline of dance history to the American academic community. Determined since her adolescence to study the subject, she found the teachers and environments she needed, and then helped develop university departments where such studies could deepen and continue, as well as training critics and funding awards in several scholarly disciplines.
In the year preceding Cohen’s centennial, Elizabeth Zimmer mined the extensive archive of her personal and professional papers available at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts. The resulting paper, first presented in January of 2020 at the Library’s Bruno Walter Auditorium, condenses six months of research, both in Cohen’s papers and among her colleagues and acquaintances, into an inspiring story of grit and determination.