The Discipline of the Ballerina Bun

The Ballerina Bun

Whether you’re a new dancer attempting to master this hairstyle for class or a non-dancing reader, the ballet bun is a versatile, easy and professional style anyone can pull off.

“I actually remember very vividly when I first did my own bun,” Gabriella Petrone, Cal Poly sophomore business major and Orchesis company member, said. “My mom had just left for Taiwan for a family emergency and the first thing I thought when she left was, ‘crap, who’s going to do my hair for ballet?’”

Gabriella’s mother had done her hair since she started dancing at the very young age of two. The day her mom left, she realized she’d have to attempt the perfect ballerina bun by herself.

“I just did my bun myself that day and at the end of class I realized that it had stayed in the whole time,” Gabriella said. “So the first thing I did after class was call my mom and say, ‘I did my own bun!’ It was an accomplishment.”

Gabriella trained under the Royal Academy of Dance method, so from a young age she understood the importance of neat hair. Her instructor would not let dancers take class if their hair was not done up to her standards.

“It teaches you discipline. It’s almost like a ritual. It helps get me into my ballet mode because I’m thinking, ‘okay, my hair needs to go in a bun.’” — Gabriella Petrone, Cal Poly Orchesis Dancer

Veronika Velikoretski, 15, has been dancing with the Santa Barbara Festival Ballet for 12 years. She remembers first being able to put her hair up in a bun when she was seven years old.

“It was important for me to be able to do my own hair because I felt like I needed a perfect ballerina bun, like the big girls.” – Veronika Velikoretski, Santa Barbara Festival Ballet Advanced Dancer

With class and rehearsal for several hours a day, often five or six days a week, Veronika is beyond familiar with putting her hair into that neat little knot.

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Photos illustrated by Christina Favuzzi. Photographed by Christina Favuzzi and Lauren Wooley. 

She begins by putting her hair in a high ponytail using a “grip” hair tie. The rubber ribs on these hair bands keep them from slipping out of your hair.

Veronika then twists her hair and wraps it around the ponytail, forming a bun.

Pins, pins, pins. Any dancer will tell you she has probably lost hundreds of pins in her life. Veronika puts pins all around her bun to secure it to her head. She prefers to use hair pins (see image) although, you may find that bobby pins or roller pins work better for you.

She finishes the style by wrapping a hairnet around the bun to catch any stray wisps of hair.

For performances, Veronika uses plenty of gel to get her hair perfectly slicked and smooth. She also uses extra pins for good measure.

While you should always regard class as seriously as a performance, your hair should be a little more relaxed in the studio. In fact, New York City Ballet Soloist, Kathryn Morgan, said she often opts for a hairstyle other than the high ballet bun for class and rehearsal.

“I usually do a French twist or low loose bun for rehearsals with just bobby pins and for performance, we do our hair to whatever ballet it is – usually a high slick bun.” – Kathryn Morgan, New York City Ballet Soloist

Kathryn suggests wetting your hair with a spray bottle before putting it into a ponytail. This helps the hair to smooth down.

As a soloist for one of the best ballet companies in the world, Kathryn knows the exact formula for perfect performance hair. She grabs for the hairspray can to tame “any little wisps hanging out.” She also uses a piece of fake hair in addition to her own hair to make her bun thicker. This is because like many professional dancers, Kathryn’s hair is very thin.

The New York Times wrote a fascinating article on dancers and their hair. It discusses the problems dancers deal with as a result of pulling their hair back tightly into a bun for so many years.

During Kathryn’s tremendous career as a professional ballet dancer, she has dealt with hundreds of quick costume and hair changes.

“It is very important for dancers to be able to do their own hair because you never know the situation you will be in. You might have to put it up quickly. There is one ballet we do that we have to go from one costume with hair down to a different costume with hair up in about 90 seconds. Very scary. So it is super important.” – Kathryn Morgan, New York City Ballet Soloist

What You’ll Need

  • Hair Ties
  • Hair Net
  • Hairspray and/or gel (for performance)
  • Different Types of Pins: Bobby Pins, Jumbo Bobby Pins, also called Roller Pins, Hair Pins, Jumbo Hair Pins


  • Fake Flowers
  • Decorative Barrettes and Clips
  • Ribbon

You can purchase these products at your local drugstore. Goody Hair products are excellent.

If you need additional help, check out this video by Anaheim Ballet.