An interview with Saqra Raybuck, founder of Fearless Glamour
This year is my 40th anniversary in belly dance. I started in 1977 when I was introduced to a school friend’s mom who was in a dance troupe in Seattle. I did my original learning mostly kind of second hand from my friend, supplemented by books. There weren’t videos available back then.
Was there a point in time that you can point to and say “here, this is where I went from casual hobby belly dancer to serious/wanting to be a professional”?
In the late 80s I took a beginning class through the local parks and rec. I had been trying to continue to learn and dance for 10 years already but I didn’t tell the teacher. I guess, not surprisingly, the instructor asked me into her troupe and asked me to do belly grams with her service pretty much right away. I wasn’t with the instructor very long, but it underlined to me that I did have a solid base of knowledge and that I did have the ability to both research and work with people. I knew in my soul that I really was serious about dancing when I impulsively swore off snow skiing just to protect my knees.
So, I’ve seen you dance, and I know what always strikes me as particularly stunning about your dancing – what is your favorite thing about your own dancing?
I think I am approachable. I think I’m real, and that my dance communicates that. I personally don’t like people who are full of themselves, and I don’t think people think I’m full of myself.
Well, I’ve certainly always found you approachable! You have a big, bright personality, both face to face, and on stage – yet there’s a relaxed ease too in your performances. What is, or was, your biggest challenge as it relates to your dance?
Heh….slowing down. Growing a thicker skin.
Remembering that there are all kinds of people in my audience that aren’t me. We get used to dancing for other dancers. And as dancers we get used to (and can easily ignore/accept) a lot of things that make other groups of people uncomfortable. Real or imagined nudity, over-sexualized movements…things we as dancers don’t even realize are distracting to non-dancers because we are used to them. My goal as a dancer was to always dance so anyone in the audience would appreciate my skill, musicality and emotion and to be costumed in a sexy, but classy and restrained way that non-dancers can relate to. I want my dancing to speak for itself. I’m also really loose jointed and energetic….I need space in my costumes to move. I’m never going to dance like I think I’m a runway model you should just admire… And I don’t want to be worn by a costume… I’m going to be bouncing around trying to make the audience smile or laugh or cry, and I don’t want to have to worry if I’m shocking a civilian with views of my butt or damaging a costume with a long stride or a “Turkish drop.” So in my movements and my costuming I look for freedom, for enthusiasm, comfort, relatability to anyone watching me.
The costumes I’ve seen you perform in and seen in your photos always look so polished and professional — are you saying they are always comfortable for movement too?
Yeah, the more I have traveled with teaching and with the higher professionalism requirements, the more I have sought out designs that still look very professional but that can travel, that I can put on without hiring a team of assistants, that don’t require prescription underwear, and that I can move and breathe in without risking unexpected exposure. I started out just picking and choosing and searching when shopping in Egypt and Turkey… I had found that having the usual bedlah-style custom made didn’t make them any more comfortable or easy to wear. I have quite a few custom-made costumes from top designers that I’ve worn like twice. They are beautiful. They fit beautifully. And they still appear to be made to mostly stand there after someone helps you dress.
Is that what lead you to start Fearless Glamour?
Yeah. I’m hard to fit, and an active dancer. I did a lot of research and have many years of thought about what I really needed. Most of the designers seem to send their time trying to make costumes that are pretty by themselves, and that wasn’t cutting it for my needs. Once I got clear in my head what I needed, I found myself telling other people what they actually needed instead of what they were buying design-wise….but then neither of us could actually purchase what I was saying. So I started the costume design stuff.
Fearless Glamour was the result of years of frustration about not being able to get a proper fit. I’m large busted short-waisted and my hips are small, but my waist isn’t. So nothing ever fit and when I did find something that fit I ended up having to take whatever there was. I got tired of having absolutely no choices. On top of that everything was not very comfortable to dance in and took forever to put on. I could keep going on and on but suffice it to say that there just really wasn’t anything that I liked, unless I made it myself. So I spent a bunch of time analyzing what worked on my body type and all that -but after all that research it made me decide everybody else was probably having the same kind of problem.
So here we are. We do custom sized professional level costuming in high quality fabrics for reasonable prices. And we don’t jack up the price on tall women or plus size women because we just don’t believe that that is warranted. We also have the ability to do all kinds of great custom rhinestone work with professional level rhinestones. We are using a cat operated rhinestone appliques Transfer Machine and can make anything. Really we’re having a great time with the flexibility that we’ve created in our product and I’m thrilled every time I talk to someone who tells me it’s the first time they’ve ever had a costume that really fit. People find out that there is nothing wrong with their body, there is everything wrong with off the rack clothing in costumes.
We go through our entire lives trying to make clothing fit our bodies instead of having clothing choices that actually fit our bodies. For our daily wear we go to the store and pick out clothing that doesn’t look bad on us. But only certain shapes look good on us. So we end up creating our style from what looks least offensive. With having something custom made to fit you, so many more styles and shapes fit your body. And look fantastic. And give you so many more choices to express your inner belly dance Fashionista!
You can really put together a costume that is anything from conservative to almost risqué. But we make it a point to make sure that you can wear real underwear with your costumes and we do give you clear bra straps to use with the convertible bra in case you have an area where the bra straps would be showing. We want you to be able to wear whatever kind of foundation garments you need or feel good in.
As a plus size dancer, I have to say that this sounds too good to be true. If I hadn’t seen (and tried on!) some of your costumes I would be sure you were exaggerating. – so how does one get her hands on one of your costumes?
fearlessglamour.com or contact me through Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can email a catalog that is usually more up to date than the web site.
When you choose costuming remember that many designers make costumes that look beautiful by themselves, but don’t necessarily look beautiful on a live body…nor do they move well or perhaps even simply stay in place. In fact, many foreign designers do not actually have any dance experience. So when you select costumes you really have to overlook how beautiful the costume is and start thinking about how the costume will affect your own body lines.
Some examples: If you have broad shoulders then a halter neckline is going to make your shoulders look larger, If you have a small bust you should consider matching arm bands or sleeves that carry the color out onto your biceps. If you are short you may need to avoid color changes like horizontal bands that break you up into pieces. If you are short-waisted then many midriff cutouts may fall too low on your body. Dark colors in the middle of the torso and light colors on the outsides make you look wider, Godets (insets) on the sides of a skirt need to hit somewhere between just below and just above the knee to emphasize a hip curve…. if they come up to the hip they make you look wider. The exception being if you need to cover up thigh points/pointy saddlebags, then you can bring them up higher to cover that area.
Costuming is very individual. If you have a perfect figure you can stick any old thing on and look terrific, but most of us would really rather emphasize or de-emphasize various parts. Buying a costume because the costume is pretty isn’t a guarantee it will make YOU look pretty.
One last costume selection comment…if you have an hourglass shaped figure with average shoulder width — NO MATTER HOW MUCH SAND IS IN THE HOURGLASS — you can wear nearly any style that fits you correctly and looks good. Trust that.
You know, we forget that fit is actually the most important factor. We aren’t used to clothing made for us these days; we are used to going to the store and trying to find the thing that is least offensive on us, and eventually that creates our actual style and taste. Things actually made to fit on your body look a million times better than something off-the-rack forced to work on your body.
Gallery of Fearless Glamour Designs