Central European folk-dancers illustrated sorting algorithms

Robbo sez, "Sapientia University has posted a series of videos using folk dances as a way to visualy demonstrate various sorting algorithms. It's intensely geeky - and just downright cute too."

I love sorting algorithms -- I actually use bubble-sorts in real life all the time when I'm trying to make subtle qualitative distinctions (picking the best three flowers out of a bunch, say).

Take one Central European folk dancing team, a small folk band and an added overlay showing array locations and get them to dance the algorithms in time to "appropriate" folk music. The result is slightly surreal and for a time at least slightly hypnotic.
Sorting algorithms as dances (Thanks, Robbo!)


  1. If I remember correctly, they used to do this sort of special dance on “The Mickey Mouse Club” in the 1950s – except while wearing Mouse ears. I appreciate this dance but still have no idea what a bubble-sort or an algorithim is.

    1. An algorithm is a systematic way of doing something, and in this case it’s a way of sorting the dancers from lowest number to highest. Did you notice any pattern to how the dancers started out with their numbers all out of order, and ended up all sorted in order?

      Anyway, what I particularly liked was that they didn’t skip anything. They still had dancers compare against each other even when the two were already in order, and they had to compare part-way up the chain at the end, even though they were already all in order. A programmer must have had the last word there, to say that “no, even though we can see that it’s all sorted, the algorithm still doesn’t know!”

  2. Goodness. It’d be fun to see a bunch of algorithms done this way – linked list element addition and deletion, red-black trees, heck even one of Knuth’s pseudorandom generators … Choreocryptography even?

  3. Merge sort seems like one of the most danceable sorting algorithms – it’s a natural for a square dance.

  4. They wanted to show you the heap sort algo as well, but it’s only available pay-per-view on Cinemax :)

  5. That’s wonderful. The thought that went into it and the choreography of the dancers. For the dancers, keeping up with the numbers and cues would be very difficult.

    I Appreciate it.and I’m glad it’s on the net for viewing.

  6. Yes, it was impressive, but I was hoping they’d finish by summarizing Proust in fifteen seconds and performing the dead parrot sketch.

  7. That’s a brilliant teaching concept. Doing it in binary would need a fleet of amulances though, and I wonder if The AlgoRythms play Zorba the Geek?

    Kudos to the creators!

    1. Interestingly I was thinking the exact same thing the second before I read your comment.

  8. One wonders how much better American pupils would perform on examinations of mathematics if performing accurate dances of algorithms — sorting and otherwise — was a routinely-offered teaching methodology.

    1. Unfortunately, high school mathematics in the United States spends far too much time on completely pointless things like the chain rule in calculus, which no body will ever remember or care about unless they have a need for it, to learn anything useful like a sorting algorithm.

  9. There was a bit of cognitive dissonance for me, because I always felt for some reason that odd numbers are male and even numbers are female, instead of the other way around.

    But it’s a beautifully done piece! Loved it.

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