If you believe that sex is a sacred and holy expression of the miracle of the universe and/or an expression of infinite love, then Bellydance is the perfect vehicle for this message.
Many women who study Bellydance find it empowering because the archetypal movement and nuance they are tapping into ends up rewiring their view of their body, their own sense of womanhood, sexuality/sensuality and its importance. People who may be more in tune with the last 2000 years of sexual denial will experience Bellydance as a negative thing.
By the same token, Bellydance is fast becoming globally popular, because it is a way of overcoming this inner oppression.
When a denial is overcome or freedom is given to a previously oppressed expression or a truth is released from the closet, then often overcompensation is the first response. It is a way of balancing.
When I see Bellydancers who emphasize aggressive sexuality lacking finesse or subtle artistry, it often makes me think they are in the process of overcoming their own inner oppression. These instances of course then add to the discourse that Bellydance is sexualized spectacle.
Bellydance can be both a feminist act of empowerment and sexualized spectacle and sometimes, at the same time. The message is in the hands of the Bellydance artist. The sooner Bellydancers and people in general balance out their former inner sexual oppression, the sooner this art form can be more of an expression of love and the miracle of the universe.
I really look forward to this day and hope I see it in my lifetime. Then perhaps, confusion over what Bellydance is and whether it is worthy of respect will be cleared up.
From interview in dance magazine (The Dance Current) many years ago.
Little Egypt - dancer at Chicago World's Fair 1893