Mary-Jean Cowell performed with the Katherine Litz Company and in her own work, produced at Clark Center and Dance Theatre Workshop. Since then, she has choreographed more than 50 works which have been presented in New York, Hawaii, Tokyo, and more recently in St. Louis and other midwest venues. In Tokyo, Cowell taught and choreographed for the Kobo Abe Repertory Company. Her work often evades genre distinctions: for instance, she appeared in the St. Louis production of performance artist Ping Chong's Angels of Swedenborg, and she scripted, choreographed, danced, and acted in "Komachi" and "Research," and "For Robert: On Orders."
One of her research interests is Michio Ito, a Japanese born dancer who contributed to the development of modern dance in the United States . Her articles on Ito have appeared in the Dance Research Journal and Dance Chronicle. She presented her most recent study, “From Enemy Agent to Army Choreographer: Michio Ito at the Ernie Pyle Theatre” at the Congress on Research in Dance conference in Taipei, August, 2004. Another interest, developing new methods of dance pedagogy, has been shared in several workshops given at National Dance Education Organization conferences. Cowell is currently on the National Board of the American College Dance Festival Association and is also a board member the Missouri Dance Education Organization.
Cowell’s awards include an exchange fellowship to the University of Strasbourg, a Council of Students of Arts and Sciences Award for Outstanding Teaching and Dedication to Students, a Japan Foundation grant, and a Missouri Creative Artist Project grant. She has secured two National College Choreography Initiative grants to bring dance artists David Dorfman and Alonzo King to teach master classes and set choreography on WU students. She was project director for these NCCI grants and Festival Coordinator for the 2005 Central Region American College Dance Festival hosted by the WU Dance Program.