The theorist with the greatest presence in Weimar dance culture was probably Fritz Böhme (1881–1952). Of all the theorists, he disclosed the strongest attachment to metaphysical idealism. He studied literature and art history at the university in Berlin; he did free-lance journalism from 1902 until 1015, when he decided that dance was his compelling subject. He contributed dance criticism to several Berlin newspapers and periodicals, including Libelle (1918), a now extremely rare journal devoted entirely to dance. In 1919 he assumed the editorship of the feuilleton section of the Deutsche Allegemeine Zeitung (DAZ), and in this paper his dance reviews appeared almost daily for many years. During the Weimar era, Böhme was a driving force in the organization of dance associations, dance congresses, dance criticism, dance journals, dance education forums, and dance performance opportunities. His longer and more intellectual articles appeared in such heavyweight cultural journals as Die Tat, Ethos, and Der Scheinwerfer . Meanwhile, he personally amassed the largest library of writings on Weimar dance ever assembled. In 1933 he joined the Nazi Party, supposedly because he thought his influence would ameliorate the hostility the Nazis generally tended to project toward modern dance. His great ambition during the Third Reich was to establish a national academy of dance and a national archive for dance history, seeded by his own immense personal archive. The government procrastinated on the formation of the academy, and in 1943 a British air attack completely destroyed Böhme's great archive (Manuel, "Wegbereiter").
Böhme's most interesting writings on dance consisted of his innumerable reviews for the DAZ, but these remain very difficult to obtain; even the Böhme collection of the dance archive in Leipzig possesses only a limited selection of them. They exerted far less influence than his theoretical publications, yet until more of them surface, understanding of his thinking about dance will remain quite incomplete. Only in the reviews can one grasp his response to dance as a performance reality, for in his widely disseminated theoretical works he detached dance from performance more completely than any other theorist. As an object of theory, dance preoccupied him as a sign of dynamism (rather than stability) in the cultural-historical structure of societies. He liked to paint the big picture of the "situation" of dance and dancers for any given era, particularly his own. Dance was a dynamic historical force because it embodied an ideal, and therefore he analyzed dance ideals rather than dances, historical situations of dance
rather than dance performances, even though probably no one in Germany had seen more dance performances than he.
In "Materialien zu einer soziologischen Untersuchung des künstlerischen Tanzes" (Ethos 1, 1925–1926, 274–293), he introduced vague conditions for identifying the status of dance in terms of social structures, such as professionalization, choreography, affiliation with other arts. At the Magdeburg Congress in 1927, he discussed "the dancer of our time," asserting that the function of the dancer was to bring a powerful sense of "rhythm in being" to an era dominated by "mass organization and mechanization" without succumbing to the temptations of military drill and mechanized mobilization of the body (Die Tat, 19/8, November 1927, 580–588). In "Der Radius des Tanzkunstwerks" (Der Scheinwerfer, 11/12, March 1928, 14–15), he declared that dance art was above all "the expression of an era, the attempt through movement and gesture, to realize, along with sculpture, music, architecture, and literature, the lines of this our epoch." For Schrifttanz in 1928 he briefly explained, by reference to eighteenth-century contributions, how an era's efforts to notate its dance art signified the "final crowning" of its achievements in dance (VP 30–32). In Kontakt (1/3, September 1933, 33–40), he suggested, with help from language of the Führer himself, that the "ecstatic moment" of a "new German dance art" arises out of the "rhythm of [the dancer's] blood, out of the breath of his race," and in a 1936 essay, after politely proposing that the difference between folk dance and art dance did not entail an ideological conflict, he concluded that the "social responsibility of the dancer in the present" involved immersion in "the National Socialist movement and the honorable and passionate surrender to the work of our leader Adolf Hitler" (MS 123–125).
Perhaps Böhme's most substantial publication was Tanzkunst (1926). Here he covered almost every aspect of dance art since its mysterious origins—without, however, analyzing a single dance. The language of the book always remained focused on "the meaning of the situation" associated with untested categories of dance. For example: "Ecstatic dance cannot advance to artistic refinement, but only to a natural, organically grown expression. It lacks the conscious will to form of an artist, lacks the conscious and cool affinity for material laws, the sense of material limits, which is necessary to contour forms and artistic expression. The spirit of ecstasy is latent and objectified will in the artwork" (59). However, the truth of this assertion depends on analysis or, at least, an example of something designated as ecstatic dance. Tanzkunst consisted almost entirely of language in this aphoristic style, making no concessions at all to the materiality of performance itself except for the twenty-four photographs that decorated the book. Although the book today makes rather dull reading, the Weimar dance culture appreciated it precisely because it treated every abstract category of
dance (ecstatic dance, ballet, movement choir, folk dance, nude dance, and so forth) as a dynamic historical force in itself, independent of performance realities and therefore defined by intentions and ideals. These, Böhme knew through long experience as a newspaper reviewer, conflicted with the intensely material but ephemeral "historical situation" of specific bodies moving in specific ways in specific spaces at specific times. He did not describe the pleasures of dances; he described his anticipation of "the dance" as something yet to come.