Where They’re Headed: Emma Cohen ’17

The history of art major, museum studies minor, and trained dancer is devoted to a future in the arts.

A college education and a professional dance career were never mutually exclusive for Emma Cohen ’17. Even though she almost chose to pursue dance over attending college, the history of art major, who also minored in museum studies, has found a way to do both, working at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) PS1 in Queens, N.Y. while pursuing a freelance dance career and weighing an offer from a prestigious Vancouver-based dance program.

As a part-time gallery associate at the MoMA PS1, a branch of the MoMA dedicated to contemporary art, the local of Evanston, Ill., is fulfilling responsibilities such as guiding tours and engaging visitors while taking the opportunity to observe the inner workings and practical functions of a major art museum. A previous internship with Philadelphia’s Fabric Workshop and Museum, to which she still contributes work, and a senior thesis on the multimedia installation by contemporary artist Ann Hamilton, set the stage for Cohen’s work with MoMA.

Though she loves the world of museums, she is also still committed to her dance career, helping out with administrative duties at the famed Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn in exchange for free dance classes.

“All of these positions give me the flexible schedule I’ll need to work as a freelance dancer,” she says.

It’s this flexibility that is the most unusual and exciting aspect of balancing a career as a gallery associate and freelance dancer. The history of art major wants to use this flexibility to “engage in a different mode of thought than” she used to approach academically weighted dancing in her four years at Haverford.

“Most of all,” Cohen says, “I think it’s super cool and kind of crazy [that I] get to spend much of my time dancing around and playing and learning and soaking in art and exploring ideas through movement.”

Even though she almost chose to pursue “ballet professionally instead of going to college, [Haverford] gave me practice juggling a relatively unstructured schedule, and encouraged me to bring together diverse interest in interdisciplinary study.”

Cohen has been accepted into the Performance Research Program at Arts Umbrella in Vancouver, Canada, so the possibility of dancing full-time and attending a year-long program consisting of daily technique classes, performance workshops, and interdisciplinary collaboration might be in her future. She’s taking a wait-and-see approach, though, depending on what she learns from her time in New York.

“I may find myself in Canada next September!” she says.

Regardless of whether or not she decides to head north, Cohen will keep dancing because she doesn’t want to miss her chance.

“Dance careers are often short,” Cohen says, “so to a certain extent I’m also pursuing this to avoid being full of regret when I’m older and can no longer move as freely as I can now.”

Photo by Toni Smith.

“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.