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  • Writer's pictureMaples Academy of Dance

Dance Hair Styles Decoded

Updated: May 3, 2020

As we head into picture and recital time, questions about the girl’s dance hair styles often come to light. Your dancer’s teacher says she needs to wear her hair in a classical ballet bun for picture day and recital. Your first thought is “What does that look like?”. You go online and Google “ballet bun”, and a variety of different pictures and tutorials come up, leaving you even more confused. With all the different hair styles a dance teacher can request, we figured we’d take a few minutes to try and help simplify things.


The two most common buns we see in dance are sock buns and classical buns. A sock bun, as one parent described it, is the one that looks like a donut on a dancer's head. It often uses a sponge donut or sock under the bun to give it the big, round, donut look. A classical bun is smaller, flatter, and typically placed in the middle/back part of the head. A traditional ballet bun is the classical, flat, small bun.

Classical Bun

Classic bun hairstyle for dance

Sock Bun

Sock bun hairstyle for dance


Ponytails may sound simple, but can get tricky when it comes to determining the height of the ponytail. A low ponytail should sit at the back of the head, where the head meets the neck. A middle height ponytail should sit at the middle/back part of the head. For a high ponytail, the ponytail should sit at the highest part of the back of the head, without moving right on top of the head.

Low Ponytail

Low ponytail hairstyle

Middle Ponytail

Middle ponytail hairstyle

High Ponytail

High ponytail hairstyle

Slicking back the hair

It’s important for the hair, whether it be a bun or ponytail, to be pulled back securely, and free of fly-a-ways. To get this slicked-back look, a little bit of water and hair gel will typically do the trick. Before pulling the hair back in to the ponytail, spray the roots with some water to dampen it, then work in some gel. As you brush through and secure the ponytail, this will help set it in a sleek and smooth look.

If you have some fly-a-way hairs, spray them with hairspray and use a toothbrush to brush them down (this is a great tip one of our dancers shared with us and it works very well). For the stubborn fly-a-way hairs at the back of the neck, use bobby pins and hairspray to secure them in place.

Finally, top off your look with a finishing coat of hairspray. Don’t worry if the hair feels hard or sticky. No one has to touch a dancer’s hair on stage, but it does need to be held securely in place with good elastics, bobby pins and hair products. The tighter, slicker, and more solid the hair-style feels, the better!

The Shake Test

To ensure a hair style is secure for a dance performance, ask your dancer to shake her head around for about 15 seconds – moving up, down, forwards, backwards, and side to side. If it feels loose to them, tighten it with additional elastics and hair pins. No one wants a dancer’s bun to fall apart on stage in the middle of a dance!

Final Thoughts

Use elastics, bobby pins, and hairnets that match your dancer’s hair colour. Fluorescent hair elastics and bobby pins can distract the audience from the dance. In a group dance, dancers should look uniform. This includes their hair.

Remember to use a hairnet to secure your bun. Hairnets really can save a bun by helping to hold the bun in place and flatten it out.

If your dancer has a hair-piece for a dance, don’t forget to put that in her hair too. The general rule for hair-pieces is if one person doesn’t have theirs for a picture or performance, no one in the group wears one!

Practice your hairstyles. Nothing can be more frustrating than hair trouble on picture day or performance day. Practicing buns and ponytails a few days before will help make performance day hair-prep run smoothly and stress-free.


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