Note: When mentioning Bonnie in other writings, her name should appear as follows:
Full name: Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen
Last name: Bainbridge Cohen
Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen is a movement artist, researcher, educator, and therapist. She was born on December 31, 1941 in Miami, Florida. Her parents, Ruth Wilder and Joseph Bainbridge, worked with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Ruth performed in different circus acts: flying trapeze, Roman racing (in which three people race, each standing on the backs of two horses), and other acrobatic activities on ropes and platforms. Joe was a popcorn seller, usher, ticket seller, and advance agent. Ruth left the show when Bonnie was eight and Joe left when she was fifteen. The life of the circus continues to influence Bonnie’s perceptual foundation.
Bonnie studied dance throughout her childhood and shared this love with her mother who was also a professional dancer. Two of Bonnie’s childhood dance teachers were Mae Rose and Ruth Cater. At Hialeah High School, Bonnie was able to study modern dance daily with Ms. Jordan as a physical education elective. During her senior year she was one of twelve students in an advanced science research class under the tutelage of Mr. Thomas Barringer. Each student chose an area of special inquiry. Her project was dissection of a cat, learning all the bones and muscles, and comparing them to the human. Also, in her senior year she volunteered with a teacher and small group of students to explore movement and music making with children at the United Cerebral Palsy Center.
In 1963, Bonnie graduated from The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, Ohio with a BSc. degree in Occupational Therapy. She continued to also study dance at OSU and from 1964 – 1965, she enrolled in the dance major program under the direction of Helen Alkire.
In the summer of 1963, she went to the Turtle Bay School of Music in New York City to study dance therapy with Marion Chase, one of the founders of the field of dance therapy.
Upon graduation from college, she worked as an occupational therapist at Dodd Hall, the OSU rehabilitation center under the direction of Nancy Snyder. In 1964, she was sent for three months to Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey, California. There she studied advanced rehabilitation approaches under the direction of Betty Yerxa, OTR.
In the summer of 1965, she went to New York City to study dance with Erick Hawkins, one of the great modern dancers. His concept and embodiment of effortless, free-flowing movement as a natural phenomenon became a foundation for Bonnie’s explorations.
She returned to her work and studies in Columbus, Ohio during the autumn and moved to New York in January 1966. There she continued to study intensively with Erick Hawkins and his company. Other important teachers in New York were Andre Bernard and Barbara Clark, who taught neuromuscular reeducation in the lineage of Mabel Elsworth Todd; Irmgard Bartenieff, with whom she was certified as a Laban Movement Analyst in 1974; Dr. Judith Kestenberg, with whom she was certified as a Kestenberg Movement Profiler; Warren Lamb in Action Profiling; Yogi Ramira, a yogi and physical therapist from Madras, India who introduced her to the concept of engaging and balancing the organs; and Sylus Engum and Herb Doussant with whom she studied voice in the lineage of Douglas Stanley.
While in New York, Bonnie worked as an occupational therapist at Bird S. Coler Hospital on Welfare Island, taught dance at Hunter College, taught movement to women in their eighties and nineties at the Amsterdam Nursing Home, went on home visits to children with special needs and worked with dancers with physical challenges.
In August 1968, Bonnie moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands to study dance with Pauline de Groot and Jim Tyler, two of Erick Hawkins’ principal dancers. There she explored touch and movement with patients at the University of Amsterdam’s psychiatric Research Clinic and privately with dancers.
She then spent three months from April to June 1969 studying in London, England with Dr. Karl and Berta Bobath, where she received a certificate in Neurodevelopmental Therapy.
Upon returning to New York in August, she met Leonard Cohen while studying aikido. They were married on January 24, 1970. Bonnie began offering individual sessions to people with injuries and teaching dance privately and at the Erick Hawkins School of Dance. As well as studying aikido, she and Len began studying tai chi with Professor Cheng Man-Ching.
In November 1970, they moved to Tokyo where Len continued his studies in aikido and finished his undergraduate study in Far Eastern Studies at Sophia University. While in Japan, Bonnie helped to establish a school for occupational and physical therapy at Fuchu Rehabilitation Center, under the auspices of the Tokyo government. She also taught at the School for Occupational and Physical Therapy, administered by the national government.
In Tokyo, Bonnie and Len studied katsugen undo (life force movement) with Haruchika Noguchi, the founder of Seitei. They also studied Aikido at Hombu Dojo in Tokyo and with Michio Hikitsuchi in Shingu. These teachers exerted a strong influence on Bonnie’s research in the movement of body and mind. Their first son was born in Japan.
They returned to New York City in the summer of 1973. There Len entered chiropractic school and Bonnie began the first classes in Body-Mind Centering® in their apartment at 200 Waverly Place, taught dance privately at the Kay Wylie studio and at the Erick Hawkins School of Dance when the company was on tour. Their daughter was born in New York.
In August 1976, Len graduated from chiropractic school and they moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, where their second son was born. They spent the next 33 years there. The office for the School for Body-Mind Centering® (SBMC) was originally in the house and Bonnie saw private clients there. SBMC courses took place at various venues in the area: the Amherst Ballet Center, St. Bridget’s Church, and Hampshire College in Amherst; East Street Studios in Hadley; Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley; and Thornes Market and Smith College in Northampton. Other teachers she studied with in the late 1970’s and 1980’s include craniosacral therapy with Drs. John Upledger and Dick McDonald; Zero Balancing with Dr. Fritz Smith, Reflexes with Mary Fiorentino, OTR, and neurophysiology with Josephine Moore, PhD, OTR.
During their time in Amherst, Bonnie developed the curricula and created the written materials for the programs offered by the School for Body-Mind Centering®. These programs included:
Somatic Movement Education
Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner
Body-Mind Centering® Teacher
Infant Developmental Movement Education
Embodied Anatomy and Yoga
Embodied Developmental Movement and Yoga
She also taught dance classes in the Amherst area and Body-Mind Centering® workshops locally, nationally, and internationally.
Bonnie has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award through the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (2018) and the Pioneer Award through the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (2023).
In June 2009, Len and Bonnie moved to California. Bonnie continues to teach workshops in the US and internationally, research embodiment, write, and create videos. She also studies drawing, watercolor, western calligraphy, Chinese brush painting, and Mandarin Chinese.
You can find Bonnie’s Curriculum Vitae here.