Grab your hair spray and arsenal of brushes because it’s that time of year again. With recitals looming, studio owners will be dictating recital hairstyles, and parents everywhere will be scrambling to smooth out their children’s locks. Whether you’re a dance teacher putting finishing touches on your student’s updos or a parent struggling to tame a curly mane, use these tricks to get perfect dance performance hair every time.
For short hair
Dancers with shoulder-length tresses often struggle to get their hair up into ballet buns. There’s always the option to use a fake bun and cover, but there are also ways that short hair can be pulled back into a professional style. The YouTube tutorial below shows how dancers with short hair can slick their locks back with a pomade, then twist any remaining ends into cute little spirals. This trick calls for plenty of bobby pins to hold the hair in place, but it’s a great option for ballerinas who don’t want to go the fake-bun route.
For unruly hair
Dancers with curly, thick or coarse hair may have trouble coercing their hair into desired performance styles. To say it’s challenging to get some hair types into a smooth updo is an understatement. Some dancers use chemical relaxants to get their hair to cooperate, but Dance magazine explained that this will only damage the strands. Instead, students should try using a moisturizer on their hair once a week. On the day of the performance, spray a heat protector onto your hair, then carefully blow dry it, working with a small section at a time and elongating the locks as much as possible while you’re working. Once your hair is dry, use a flat iron to further flatten your locks. With the help of a strong hair wax or balm and a fine-tooth comb, you should now be able to pull your tresses back into a smooth updo.
For the perfect bun
It can be tricky to make a perfectly neat, stable bun, but dance veterans have a few tried and true tricks. Before you begin, you’ll need hair rubberbands/elastics, plenty of bobby pins, hairspray and/or gel, a brush/comb, hairnet, and for this example, a bun “donut” (see example here). Our client Elite Dance Force recommends the following steps in their excellent tutorial:
- Starting with wet or gelled hair.
- Pulling hair into a high ponytail.
- Pull the ponytail through the bun “donut.”
- Smooth hair around bun maker.
- Add a rubberband around base of bun.
- Part hair on right and left of bun. Apply more gel.
- Twist one side of hair.
- Wrap around bun, gel and bobby pin it.
- Repeat on other side.
- Wrap hairnet around bun.
- Apply any head piece for your dancer’s costume.
For a tutorial that does not use a bun “donut,” check out the video below.
Some cute costumes call for complementary hair accessories, but these are especially prone to falling out while the performers are twirling and leaping. If you’re wearing a headpiece, decorative flower, bow, extensions or fake ponytail, there are a few tricks you can use to ensure the piece stays in place. The most well-known trick is to simply put as many bobby pins as humanly possible onto the accessory. Try to place the pins so they’re crossing each other, as this will create a better hold. Dance parents on the DanceMom forum recommended going all out with 25 or more bobby pins! Another expert tip is to attach some horsehair braid ribbon onto the accessory with hot glue. This will give bobby pins a surface to grip and help the piece to stay put.
If you’ve ever been a dancer yourself, you probably know how much it can hurt when a parent or teacher is yanking your hair, trying to get it just right. Keep this in mind as you help your students prepare for their performances! Dance Advantage explained that a comfortable dancer is a happy dancer, so being as gentle as possible during prep can go a long way. Here are a few tips to ensure that students don’t leave the hairdressing station with tender scalps.
- Avoid hair ties with metal clasps, which can easily get tangled or poke into the skull.
- Let students brush their own hair to get rid of any initial knots and tangles.
- Pay attention to the body language of the dancer – they might not tell you when you’re pulling too hard!
- Ask the performer if her ponytail feels comfortable or is too tight.
- Let dancers wipe any excess hair spray or gel off their skin with a baby wipe, which can otherwise become itchy and dry as the day goes on.