Belly Dance has an unknown past. There is speculation that it started as religious dancing. Women priests worshipping with their bodies. There is another theory that Belly Dance started as a way for women to prepare for childbirth. The isolations of belly rolls, belly flutters, and undulations are very close to breathing techniques used in Lamaze. Another and very popular, outside of belly dance circles themselves, speculation is that it was a way for women to entice men. Since Harem means 'separate' and NOT what typical Americans think of as the Sultan with thousands of concubines, it seems unlikely that belly dance was used to seduce men until very recently (and we suspect that that particular misperception of Belly Dance came about because of Burlesque in America).
When a person looks at the possible origins of Belly Dance, you can see how it can have been all of those beginnings and more. Dancing can be a very religious experience. In fact, there are several different styles of religious dance, dervish ( a spinning trance inducing dance), ayyuub (a head swaying somewhat trance inducing dance), and sufi ( circle dancing in modern times to promote inner and outer peace).
Isolation is a key for both belly dancing and Lamaze breathing technique used for childbirth. Focusing on one part of your body, and letting the rest relax and do its job of allowing muscles to dilate is an integral part of the Lamaze breathing. As a beginner Belly Dancer, you focus on hip isolations and when those are mastered to a certain level of proficiency, then and only then can you add upper body movements.
Even though Belly Dance did not start as a way to seduce or entice men, it is a sensual dance. There is something very aweinspiring about watching a person who has complete control over their body. When you can watch a Belly Dancer and see a snakelike, (long associated with the downfall from Eden) undulating movement, it is hypnotizing. The movements are all natural and fluid, never contorted or dangerous. The dance itself is full of shapes, designs, and images from the world around us.