The Spirit Moves (1950)

Part 1: Jazz Dance from the Turn of the Century ’til 1950
Produced, directed, edited, and narrated by Mura Dehn.
Camera: Herbert Matter

Mura Dehn was a Russian emigre to the United States in the 1930s. She was so impressed with the African-American social dance that she saw in New York City that it became her life’s work to document African-American vernacular dance. One of her achievements was “The Spirit Moves”, consisting of six hours of remarkable archival film. It is available for viewing only at the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in New York City.

The first chapters of this remarkable archival film of African-American dance consist of studio demonstrations of authentic jazz dance forms by artists of the Savoy Ballroom of Harlem.


James Berry
Pepsi Bethl
Teddy Brown
Sandra Gibson (Mildred Pollard)
Leon James
Thomas King
Frankie Manning
Willa Mae Ricker
Al Minns
Scoby Strohman
Esther Washington

Original Index from the Film:

Chapter I
Strut, Cakewalk, Breaks–steps in cakewalk
Charleston (1920’s), Jazz steps (1930’s, including Boogie-woogie, Shimmy, Susie-Q, Snake hips, Black bottom, Fish tail
Chapter II
Rent party, Shakeblues, Speak easy, Male shake blues, Gutbucket blues
Chapter III
Savoy routines:
Trunky doo, Aerial lindy, California (lindy), Big Apple.
Postwar trends:
Calypso, Apple jack
Jazz Dance:
Bethel, Pepsi.
Berry, James J., d. 1969.
Brown, Teddy.
Gibson, Sandra

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