Book Review

By Khadija (Katrina Valenzuela)

Transformations Center for Healing & Holistic Studies

Belly Dance - Celebrating the Sacred Feminine

By Martha Elena Burns

Foreword by Christiane Northrup, MD

If you have not begun holiday shopping for your favorite dancer, or yourself, stop right there! This big, lush book is a delight to the senses, a magical journey of breathtaking beauty that will leave you in tears.

The moment I held the book and gazed at the cover, I was mesmerized and transported. Two hundred and twelve pages glorious pages later; I reluctantly came back to reality. The beautiful foreword by well known MD and writer, Christiane Northrup leads us into a touching preface from author/photographer Martha Elena Burns describing her personal experiences with the dance.

Exquisite quotes from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Alice Walker, Jean Shinoda Bolen and Jalaja Bonheim weave their way through photographs filled with motion, spirit and energy. Thick vellum overlays slowly reveal shimmering images, like veils being lifted into the secret, sacred world of the dancer. Not instructional, it is instead nourishment for the dancer's soul.

If you are a practical dancer who does not give much credence to the Divine Feminine, The Goddess, I guarantee you will feel Her awesome presence here. You may even begin to radiate your own inner Goddess with pride once you realize that as a woman and as a dancer, you are a part of Her great mystery.

From innocent young girl to new mother, to older wise woman, all stages of our lives as women are represented here with dignity, and reverence. While you will recognize many dancers that you know and love, the artistic scope of 'Belly Dance; Celebrating the Sacred Feminine' is much broader and deeper than personalities.

This book is obviously an act of love, ten years in the making, and is not just for dancers. Anyone with a passion for art, beauty, color, design, and spectacular photography will be inspired and uplifted.

This is a book to be savored slowly, kept in a special place and revisited often. I was allowed to review the galley copy, but the completed, hard cover, gold-foiled version can be ordered at



"This extraordinary book welcomes the reader to respect the deeper purpose of an art form whose ongoing legacy is one that serves not just its audience, but the dancer herself. It takes more than a photographer's eye to capture images as fluid and vibrant as those gracing the pages of Belly Dance, Celebrating the Sacred Feminine. Only a genuine passion and reverence for the subject can yield a collection of photographs that so convincingly affirms belly dance as being a serious and worthy art form.

The Casual bookstore patron who happens upon this compilation is at once captivated by the alluring cover, which beckons the reader and speaks to the sensual nature of belly dance. Yet a closer look reveals not just a form of entertainment, but a richly illustrated experience of dancers at all ages experiencing intimate, reflective moments. Celebrating belly dance as an expression of womanhood.

The theme of female pride and independence reverberates throughout the various quotations that accompany this colorful series of full-page photographs. Dr. Christiane Northrup underscores a sorority of sisterhood with her thoughtful Foreword and again Photographer’s Preface continues with a description first hand. The passion creates power, inspiring confidence, independence, and vitality. In other instances the dance soothes and heals the wounded spirit – though undeniably ethereal –inevitably linked to the female physical form, and that it is through the empowering act of belly dancing that the female mind, body, and spirit merge and commune.

So after eagerly absorbing the images and words adorning the pages within, readers will see the impressive cover in a new light. What was at first seen as merely provocative and beguiling – inviting the reader to seek amusement through visual delights – instead welcomes the reader to respect the deeper purpose of an art form whose ongoing legacy is one that serves not just its audience, but the dancer herself. Belly Dance, Celebrating the Sacred Feminine is as much a celebration of the many virtues of womanhood as it is a celebration of the passionate and powerful art of belly dance.

- Steven Brown


What an “Oeuvre”! You put heart and soul into it and succeeded in linking our beautiful dance to the profound words of the most articulate women of our time. Much needed to both dispel the dark age thinking about belly dance among the population at large, and to introduce the non-bellydancer to the true nature of the art]

- Dhyanis

I received the much anticipated book yesterday and just wanted to tell you that it is really a treasure that I will cherish and keep in my family for as long as I can. I was very moved to see your beautiful photography and all the love and care that was put into the design of the book. It was so great to see some friends, children, old women, famous and new faces as I turned the pages. I congratulate you on fulfilling your project masterfully!

Copyright 2009 Alta Vista Books