I highly recommend spending 10 minutes with automaton and toy making legend Ron Fuller. In this video Fuller explains the design and construction of a dancing figure that is powered by the steam produced from a small boiler heated with an alcohol lamp. Once the boiler reaches temperature, we get to see the figure dance...and boy, does it dance! There may or may not be a fun little surprise toward the end of the video, but I refuse to say.
Fuller also shows some more traditional examples of dancing figures or "limberjacks" as they are sometimes called. He notes that the addition of a side-to-side motion really helps to improve the dancers motion. I think you'll agree. I love how one arm of his dancing figure is particularly animated, while the other moves just a little. This adds a lot of character to the motion.
Here are a few fun facts you might not know about Ron Fuller.
[ Thanks Paul! ]