It is very difficult and almost impossible to pinpoint the exact history of oriental dance, due to a lack of evidence and accounts are highly speculative. None the less, evidence proves that the origins came from the Mediterranean area including countries such as Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Persian Gulf area, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Algeria and Greece.
In Middle Eastern countries and southern Mediterranean countries, oriental dancing depicted a spiritual form dedicated to fertility and femininity. It was and still is today, considered a celebration of women or in some regions, considered a forbidden expression of dance.
During the Ottoman Empire in Turkey, oriental dance at the time was popular in harems where dancers entertained sultans, pashas and viziers.
In Greece, oriental dance is best known as the "tsifteteli". It arrived in Greece in 1922 from the Greek population in Asia Minor, Turkey; and after the Greco-Turkish war during 1918-1922.
When oriental dance arrived in the U.S.A. in the 1950's, it was renamed "belly dance", which is the translation of the French term "danse du ventre". Since then, "belly dance" became a globally recognized phenomenon.
One must always keep in mind that historical facts and information are scarce and often speculated.
In the Middle East and the Mediterranean, dancers performed only in the company of other women and strictly excluded the presence of males. Dancers were free to express their feminine nature and celebrate their femininity. They were free to have fun and interact with each, away from any social and conservative restrictions. However, although in modern times women were allowed to perform in the presence of men, oriental dance was and still is today a performing art, but is often followed by bad reputations and sexual connotations.
Nowadays in the West and other westernized countries, belly dance is seen as a sensual art form and predominantly free of restrictions.