Cohen worked tirelessly to ensure that dance receive the same respect as the literary, performing, and fine arts, according to the Times. Her biggest achievement was editing the International Encyclopedia of Dance for Oxford University Press, which was published in 1998 after two decades of planning. The comprehensive six-volume work is modeled on the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Cohen's other books include Dance as a Theater Art, published in 1974, a history of dance since the Renaissance.
Cohen was born in Chicago, where she attended received her elementary, high school, and college educations. She received a Ph.D in English in 1946 from the University of Chicago. Her interest in dance was sparked after she attended dance classes with a childhood friend.
After moving to New York in 1953 she reviewed for Dance Observer and from 1955 to 1958 was a dance critic at the the New York Times.
Cohen died from complications of Alzheimer's disease, a friend told the Times.