How to Make a Bun for Ballet

The bun is easily one of the most popular symbols of ballet, adorning every dancer from a beginner to a prima ballerina. The knob-like hairstyle not only functions as an aesthetic earmark, but its sleek look and high placement help show your spinal alignment in an unobstructed manner. It might seem easy, but making the perfect bun and having it stay through all of class takes practice. If you’re having difficulties sweeping your hair up, check out these simple tips to creating the perfect hair for ballet class and performance!

What You Will Need:

  • Hairbrush or comb (only for straight haired girls)
  • Mousse, liquid gel spray, or pomade
  • Hairspray
  • Two medium/large hair elastics
  • One small elastic to secure your braid (two for thick/curly haired girls)
  • Bobby pins
  • Hair-colored Bun Net

Start with Damp Hair

Most hairstyles require hair to be dry or styled, but the easiest way to mold a bun is to start with hair that’s been towel-dried. You want it to be damp, such that the hair sticks together easily, but not so wet that it slips or slides through your fingers.

Brush It Out

Once you’ve towel-dried your hair (or dampened it if you’re trying to skip the shower), brush it out. If you have really wavy or curly hair, don’t brush it out with a brush. Instead, run your fingers through it to eliminate any clumps or knots. Brushing out curly hair will make it frizzy and prone to flyaways that will disturb your hairstyle. After brushing out your hair, run a little mousse through it with your hands.

Fun Fact:

Buns were first sported in Ancient Greece by both sexes. The bun tradition next arose in Ancient China, where it was the mark of the married woman. In the 19th-century, buns were considered a boring hairstyle, worn only by mature women and those who sought to go plain and unnoticed. 

Slick It into a High Ponytail

The key to a gorgeous bun is a gorgeous ponytail. If you have bangs or short layers in the front that won’t fit into your ponytail, separate them. Take the rest of your hair, and using your hands, gather it into a ponytail at the middle of the back of your head.

Removing any lumps with your hands and fingers, work the ponytail higher on your head, such that it ends up at the upper back of your head, two inches or so above the tops of your ears. Make sure to comb your hands through any remaining lumps, and then secure the ponytail with a hair elastic.

Pin Back Your Bangs

Take the short layers and/or bangs you left out of your ponytail and pin them back.

  • For bangs: Comb them upward with your fingers, twist them, place the ends at the back of your head, and secure them with several bobby pins. To have a more secure hold, criss-cross two bobby pins over each other.
  • For short layers: Twist them in with the bangs, or twist them slightly and pin them to the sides of your head. What you choose is a matter of personal preference.

Braid Your Ponytail

Run a little more mousse through your ponytail, or spritz it lightly with a liquid gel or pomade. Have the smaller hair elastic ready. Braid it to the ends, and secure it with another elastic. If you have very thick hair, you may want to separate the ponytail into two separate braids. Tame any wisps or flyaways with a bit of mousse or hairspray, keeping them in line with the rest of the braid.

Wind It Up

If you made a single braid, wind it around the base of your ponytail while keeping it as flat as possible. Secure it with pins as you go. If you made two braids, wrap them the same way, but have them wrap in opposite directions for a more even look. Secure the pinned braids with a larger hair elastic wrapped twice around the entire bun.

Hot Tip: Flat out

Although cartoons and caricatures depict the ballerina bun as a giant knob on the back of the dancer’s head, you want to avoid the “doorknob” look. When you’re winding your braid around and pinning it, try and keep it as flat as possible, keeping it close to the head. Not only does this look better, but it also holds the hair more securely against the back of the head — and allows you to lie down!

Cover It Up

Once your bun is secure and in place, take your net and cover your bun. Then twist it like a hair tie, pull it tight, and wrap it over your bun one more time. Pin it into place, tucking any excess net under the bun and securing it with a bobby pin. Holding your hairspray can/bottle approximately six inches away from your head, and spray both the bun and the roots of your hair. Smooth down any wisps or flyaways as you go. Secure any loose pieces with bobby pins and a final spritz of hairspray.

Ballerina Beauty

Voila, you’re done! A perfect, secure bun that will look gorgeous all the way through class! Always keep some spare pins, hair elastics, and a can of travel-size hairspray in your dance bag. It’s best to be prepared, just in case you find yourself needing a quick touch up at the studio!

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