Franziska Boas

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Franziska M. Boas
Born New York, NY
Died Sandisfield, MA
Nationality American
Occupation Dancer, Choreographer, Percussionist, Educator, Author, Movement Therapist

Franziska Marie Boas (8 January 1902 - 22 December 1988) was the daughter of Franz Boas and Marie Krackowizer, both noted anthropologists.[1] She is best known for her works with percussion, pioneering dance therapy, and using dance as social activism.


Boas was born in New York City. She was the youngest of six children and went to school in Englewood, New Jersey. In 1923, she graduated with a B.A. in zoology and chemistry from Barnard College.[2] While at Barnard, she incorporated dance into her studies by working with leaders such as Bird Larson and, through a summer program, Mary Wigman.

In 1928, Boas married Nicholas Michelson with whom she had one child. The couple divorced in 1942.


Boas founded in 1933 the Boas School of Dance, an interracial school, where she taught “creative” and improvisational dance.[3] She directed the school until 1949. There were many notable students who were taught at the school, including Merce Cunningham and John Cage.[2] Her focus was not on creating technically perfect dancers; instead, she wanted to use dance as a method of exploring oneself and the body. She sought to break down social barriers, and believed this could be done by bringing people of all races together through dance.[3][4]

She volunteered at Bellevue Hospital[5] from 1939 to 1943 where she worked in collaboration with Dr. Lauretta Bender to pioneer dance therapy. There she used dance to observe the behaviors of schizophrenics and those with other serious mental health issues. in 1944, Boas wrote The Function of Dance in Human Society which talked about how dance could facilitate mental therapy. Her career spanned from 1933 to 1965. Boas died on December 22, 1988 in Sandisfield, Massachusetts having had Alzheimer's disease.[2]