Franziska Marie Boas (January 8, 1902 – December 22, 1988)

pher, percussionist, and a pioneer in the field of dance therapy, Franziska was the daughter of the famed German-American anthropologist Franz Boas and Marie Krackowitzer, who worked in the same field. Franziska was their sixth, and last child, and she was brought up, and went to public school, in Englewood, New Jersey. She learned from her parents the importance of activism and the need for racial equality and social justice, and she practiced those ideas throughout her life and career. Franziska obtained her B.A. from Barnard College in 1923 where she studied zoology and chemistry, with courses in dance. She combined this with studies in drawing and sculpture at the Art Students League In New York in 1923-24. She traveled to Germany to continue her studies in Breslau, working in sculpture and printmaking, and worked with dancer Mary Wigman. Returning to the U.S., she served as the assistant and percussionist to German-American dancer Hanya Holm (see “Yesteryears”, FM 2015) During these years Franziska married a doctor, Nicholas Michelson, and had one daughter. Franziska’s primary area of interest was modern dance which was performed barefoot, with simple costuming, to merely percussion—drums, bells, triangles, and cymbals. She worked as an instructor of percussion at the Benning College Summer School of Dance in 1937–39. She opened her own dance school in 1933, and what made it different was the fact that it was interracial. This allowed the training of African-American dancers, who were often not afforded many opportunities. She created the Boas Dance Group in 1945, but it lasted only a few years.

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