I’ve discovered there is a small scientific literature on the cognitive science of belly dancing. Yes, I know I should be doing something else with my time, but it’s too late now and it’s too good not to share.
A group of movement researchers studied which fundamental action abilities were the best predictors of belly dancing skills in 1st-4th grade students and, in another study, in 5th and 6th grade students. Rhythmic coordination seems to be a key skill across most age groups.
Belly dancer’s myclonus is a condition where damage to the parts of the nervous system that control muscle coordination cause an involuntary stomach rippling effect that belly dancers strive to achieve. It is thought to be a problem with neural systems called ‘central pattern generators’ (CPGs) that create rhythmic pulses.
Jimmy Or is a robotics researcher who used what we know about the neuroscience of central pattern generators to create a belly dancing humanoid robot with a flexible spine. You can see it in action on his website.