Most of the belly dancing in the world is NOT done on stage by costumed professionals but by "regular" people at various social gatherings, such as parties, weddings, anniversaries, and other special occasions!
That's right, people belly dance simply because they enjoy it- not to lose weight, not to seduce men, and not because it is their source of income. In the Middle East and surrounding Mediterranean regions where it is a part of cultural traditions, this is a dance of community and celebration, for people of ALL ages, shapes, and sizes. It's a beautiful, entertaining, expressive, creative art form that just happens to be great low impact exercise.
More recently, Belly Dance has been praised for its countless health benefits. In the West, people have been using it for the purposes of healing (physical as well as emotional), meditation, weight loss, stress relief and to improve muscle tone, endurance, balance, flexibility, body awareness, and coordination.
Although so many women start studying it because of its health benefits, they eventually find that Belly Dance allows them to express their femininity and rediscover their body's natural movement, while having fun, looking beautiful, and feeling good.
There’s so much information out there about Belly Dancing and not all of it is accurate! Here are some links for articles from trustworthy sources to learn about Belly Dance History and some of the attitudes surrounding it.
A Dance for the Whole Family. Is it a dance of seduction, or a joyous family activity?
A great article which offers insight into the origins of Belly Dance and its significance today.