In 1953, we sat in a small, harshly lit room in the old High School of Performing Arts building on 46th Street and Broadway, our legs hanging, perched or straggled on chairs in front of us. We were tired from hours of technique and rehearsals, coming straight from the studio in our worn tights and warmers. A small woman with red curls and glasses spoke intensely about Louis XIV's court ballets; she evoked a world of magic, opulence, and beauty. I remember looking around me and thinking that if I had lived then, things would be very different. And I also remember thinking how kind of this woman to let us sit in such an unladylike way in her Dance History class.
Selma Jeanne Cohen has always understood her purpose in the world, and she tolerated many mishaps for her goal—to create an academic discipline out of this amusing art form. Tired as we were, we were transfixed by the clarity of her detailed descriptions of the seventeenth-century ballet form. She was straightforward, substantive, and loving.