According to some, the dance form that today many call belly dance is extremely old and traces of it can be found up to 6,000 years ago, in some pagan societies who used to worship a feminine deity, to celebrate women’s fertility as something magic. However, there is little evidence that early pagan rituals are in any way connected to belly dance. This type of dance is supposed to be indeed good for preparing women’s body to give birth, but there does not seem to be proof of any link to ancient fertility rituals. In spite of this, there has been a tendency, in the last 40 years, to associate belly dance with spirituality and the power of the feminine. This may be due to the fact that the feminist movement, in the 1970s and 1980s in the USA, rediscovered belly dance as a form of dance that empowers women.
What we called today belly dance, seems to be the specific type of dance that comes from Turkey and Egypt. By looking at the specific movements of belly dance, some say that there could have been an influence coming from India. Indeed some movements, such as the head slides, are found both in Indian dance and in belly dance. Hence, it could be that populations migrating over the centuries from India to the Middle East and northern Africa brought their dance traditions with them, influencing the way local dances developed. Also, I think that belly dance owns a lot, in terms of dance vocabulary, to African dances. If we think about hip and chest shimmies and circles and body undulations, these are also present in African dances and in South American dances that derive from African traditions. However, each dance tradition has changed and adapted these movements so that, for example, shimmies in belly dance have a different feeling from African shimmies.
A proper choreological and historical study of dance and movement should be done in order to confirm how and when these influences developed, but it is difficult for such an ephemeral product like dance. Nevertheless, it could be attempted in the same way that linguists have studied the history of languages and traced migrations from ancient India to Europe with regards to the Indo-European languages, although movement did not leave a trace equivalent to written texts for languages.