I just got my copy of Rediscovering Birth by Sheila Kitzinger, and it's an amazing read. Here's what she has to say about belly dance:
"A Bedouin Arab girl learns a pelvic dance during the puberty rites that follow her first menstruation and will belly dance to give pleasure to her husband and also when she is in labour. The belly dance is essentially a fertility dance. The night club version of the dance for the entertainment of tourists is a distortion of its meaning. The belly dance represents the power of women to produce life."
What a gift to learn something so beautiful and so useful at a time when a girl is feeling so awkward and unsure of her body. The fluid movements ease menstrual cramps just as they ease those cramps' big sister: the contraction. The sensuality brings an offering not only to her partner but to herself, allowing her a feeling of grace, other-worldliness, and pleasure in the movement of her body. Using the movements in labor after that practiced sensuality can't not help her feel loose and open during labor. What a beautiful and symbolic full-circle, too, from conception to birthing.