I started doing my own hair for ballet when I was about eight years old and I have never really wanted anyone else to do my hair for ballet. It just felt wrong when anyone else did it; it felt as though my bun would disintegrate as soon as I started dancing. So I have not let anyone touch my hair since then and instead went out of my way to learn how to make my bun secure and, at the same time, look pretty and interesting and not silly.
Here is a sure way to make a pretty ballet bun.
You will need to get hold of the following:
- strong thick elastic (ideally a string or two rather than a band – if you are using elastic bands, choose thick ones);
- hair net ( bun size with elastic on the outer rim rather than one that covers the whole head, and take time to find a strong thick one rather than a very fine one – the latter will tear very easily and will not help in maintaining the bun securely);
- hair pins (strong U-shaped ones) and slides;
- hair brush;
- and comb.
First, you will have to make a very good ponytail. This could take a little while to get used to. Brush your hair back well. I used to make sure not to wash my hair the night before my big show because freshly washed hair can be a little too slippery. You can use hair gel or mousse, but I always found a little bit of water quite useful. Dab your hands in water and push your hair back before brushing it into a ponytail. Once you have your hair in a ponytail position in your hand, run a comb under water and comb all your hair nicely and straight towards the ponytail, taking care to make sure the bit below the ponytail (hair from the nape up towards the ponytail) is not sagging. This can easily be achieved by bending forward when combing to get a little help from gravity. Ignore any of the hair that is too short to reach the ponytail; you can sort it out later.
Once you have all your hair in your hand, use a string of strong elastic to tie up the ponytail. Using an elastic band works too, but it sometimes is not quite the right size; this can mean that the base of your ponytail is a little too lose to make it perfectly secure or it can cause the hair under the base to be a bit slack. If you are using an elastic band, put it over one hand and use that hand to squeeze the base of the ponytail so that the hair is pulled against the skull and then, keeping hold of your hair, use the free hand to pull the band over the ponytail, twist it and run the loop back over the ponytail and repeat the procedure until there is no elastic left. If the elastic is not tight enough, or your hair is rather thick, use another band to wind tightly around over the first elastic band.
If you have thick hair, like I do, tie the top half of your hair (from ear-line above) into a ponytail and tie it, and then gather the bottom half up and tie it over the top half’s ponytail.
Once the base of the ponytail is secure, comb the hair towards the base to create a smooth effect. If there are little bumps, just comb them as close as you can towards the base which will be covered by the bun anyway. You can use water again, or hair gel, mousse or spray here to make your hair smooth and silky looking.
Now, get the bun-size hair net ready, and twist your ponytail lightly with one hand and then wind the hair around the tied base of your ponytail. Do not pile it up but wind it outwards so the bun does not stick out from the skull too much. Then without putting any hair pins in, put on the bun-size hair net and let go of the hair. Your hair will spring back and fill the net. Give it a little shake and twiddle it until the net is filled evenly.
Using a U-shaped pin, catch some hair in the bun near (but not quite on) the edge, about a centimetre in, and push the pin straight towards the scalp, scoop a little hair that is already flatly squeezed against the skull and then twist the pin by 90 degrees towards the elastic and push through into the elastic that is tying your ponytail. Repeat several times. It’s easier to shape the bun prettily if you push the pins from four sides in sequence, i.e. one from right, the second from left, third from top, fourth from bottom and then fill in the gaps as much as necessary. Check that the bun is not too soft (it won’t be very secure if it is too soft) and that the shape is even and fairly flat. I used to have a silly ritual and had to pat it twice every time I did my bun!
Using hair slides, pin up any stray hair nicely and neatly. If it is for a show, use a liberal amount of hair spray to make sure your hair won’t start fraying as you dance.
Thus far this is the very basic ballet bun.
You can accessorize a bun with U-shaped pins with little flowers or beads at the end, pin a silk/fabric flower on the side (the kind with an elastic band is quite useful as it is so easy to put on and make very secure) or ribbons.
If you would like something a little different, the following are a few things you could try:
1. Once you have made a ponytail, take a part of your hair (preferably the longest bit) and braid it. Make the rest of your hair into a bun leaving the thin braid out (at top or side if you are using ribbons or flowers, etc., bottom if using no other accessories) and then wind the braid around your bun and pin it down – you will need fairly long hair for this.
2. Before putting your hair into a ponytail, use something pointy and thin – some combs, especially ones the hair dressers use, have this at the end of the handle – and separate the hair from the top of your head down to the level of your ears into two parts and braid each part. You can either then put the two braids into your ponytail and make the bun or, after having made a bun with the unbraided part of the hair, wind the braids across and up around the top of the bun and pin them down.
3. Separate your hair into two in the middle and put them into two ponytails just above the ears. Braid them neatly and then pull them across over the head a little like an Alice band, and pin them down using slides. You can put little ribbons at the base above the ears or use some decorated pins. This is (or at least was until fairly recently) the hairstyle for the younger students at the White Lodge (Royal Ballet Junior School).
4. Plait your hair into a French plait and make a bun at the nape.
5. Separate your hair in the middle and make two French plaits and cross the hair across to the other side, push the end under the plaits and secure with pins. You can use small flowers and jeweled pins all over to make it glamorous. I used this hair style when I danced a fairy of spring with lots of small flowers all over and left some little curls around my forehead. It worked really well.
There is also a special hair style typical for Romantic Ballet, but this will be for another entry…
Hair style for ballet classes should be neat buns. This is not just because it looks nicer, but because you do not want your hair to get in the way when you are turning or jumping. Make sure your hair is neat and pretty so that you feel pretty! It is very important you feel beautiful!! You are creating beauty through ballet!