It is a long-standing tradition to see ballerinas with their hair gathered into a secure and neat bun, but there is more than just tradition to this elegant hairstyle. The most basic purpose of the bun is to keep hair from whipping the face (and other dancers’ faces) during turns. Pony tails and pig tails do not keep the hair secure to the head. The bun provides protection from the excruciating results of being whipped in the eyes by hair!
In addition, ballet class requires that students focus on many different aspects of their developing technique and therefore they cannot be distracted by loose hair falling down or getting in their face. It is also highly distracting to other students when another dancer holds up a combination to fix their hair or must ask for the teacher’s attention to help. Dancers are responsible for putting their hair in a secure bun prior to class and should take proper care to make sure the bun is not loose by using bobby pins and hair clips. For students who like to try something different, a French twist or chignon are fun and acceptable alternatives to the traditional ballet bun- just remember to pin or gel all loose hair for a neat look. To keep all the hair off the forehead and securely pinned up in a bun or twist will ensure that students are not wasting valuable class time fixing their hair so they can concentrate on what is most important in class- learning and developing a love for dance!
The ballet bun made easy-
Step 1 - brush hair and put in a pony tail or braid
Step 2 - gather and twist the pony tail/braid
Step 3 - begin coiling the twisted pony tail/braid around the hair elastic to create the bun shape
Step 4 - use bobby pins as you go along, pinning the twisted coil all the way around
Step 5 - depending on the length of hair, continue coiling and pinning until the entire pony tail is in the bun
Step 6 - add additional pins to make sure the bun is secure (have the dancer shake their head to feel if the bun is loose)
Step 7 - wrap a hairnet around the bun for a sleek look
Step 8 - add a scrunchie, flower wreath or ribbon if desired and your bun is complete!
Erika Lindblom, Dance Instructor
Ballet class is the cornerstone of your student’s formal dance education. When a student decides to pursue dance studies seriously, ballet is essential to their training as it provides the technique needed for almost all forms of dance, and a disciplined, professional dedication to developing as an athlete and artist.
Ballet classes are not appropriate for very young students who do not yet have the attention span nor the gross motor skills to learn ballet properly. Usually ballet classes can begin at age 5, although pre-ballet and creative movement classes are highly beneficial for students ages 3-5 prior to entering ballet. Some students are not ready to begin ballet this young and do better when starting at 7 or 8. Ballet takes discipline and self-control to be learned properly and without risk of injury. If a student is not able to focus at age 5-6 they may want to try ballet later at age 7-8 when they have matured somewhat. Boys can start even later (a few professional danseurs have started as late as age 12-13!) It is rare but there have been a few famous ballerinas who started ballet quite late (such as Kristi Boone and Misty Copeland of American Ballet Theatre who were 13 respectively!) Ballet classes for personal enrichment can be started at any age!
It is highly recommended that students ages 6+ add jazz, hip hop, or tap classes to augment their formal training. Because ballet is so precise, younger students often feel that they aren’t “dancing” enough and may give up if they only take ballet classes. When they take jazz, tap or hip hop in addition to their ballet class(es), they will not only get to learn and dance the movements at a somewhat quicker pace but will also develop versatility with their bodies, a fundamental quality to possess as a dancer. Older students are also encouraged to add Modern classes to their curriculum.
Students may develop a preference for styles other than ballet but this does not mean that they should give up ballet classes. Unlike an academic elective, ballet is more like the “English Language Arts” class that is mandatory because it pertains to all the other subjects. The technique we gain from ballet is used throughout all forms of dance and ballet classes should continually be part of a student’s dance education regardless of what their favorites are. Studying several different dance styles is fun, enriching and is also very important, but students should not forget that ballet class is where great dancers are made.
Erika Lindblom, Dance Instructor
When can a student go on pointe?
I have been asked this question many, many times in my career as a dance educator. Parents are either eager to see their child achieve the ultimate ideal of grace and perfection, or are reluctant to encourage an endeavor which requires extreme dedication, unwavering perseverance and some physical pain.
The truth is, there is not one right answer to suffice everyone. Not every student will go on pointe at the same time. Depending on the quality and quantity of technique classes a student participates in, their specific musculature, and maturity level, some students are ready at 11 while others aren't ready until 14 or later.
To understand the rigors of pointe work, I ask parents to imagine trying to walk through a swimming pool with flippers on. This analogy seems odd but often when a student goes on pointe, they may feel stifled by their pointe shoes and unable to complete movements that once seemed possible. It can be utterly frustrating with the excitement of getting those first pair of shoes and then realizing that they do not automatically make you a perfect ballerina. Pointe work is indeed challenging but can be a wholly rewarding experience.
Dancers can benefit from pointe work even if they do not wish to pursue a professional ballet career. Advanced students with proper training, motivation and musculature can study pointe to augment their dance education. Students of ballet are technically trained dancers studying and performing a fine art that has been around since the 1600's. Participating in the fine arts is a rare pursuit in this day-and-age and classically trained artists possess unique qualities which can be utilized in a number of settings. College and/or scholarship applications and resumes will be enhanced by the inclusion of such pursuits as they imply a strong work ethic, fierce determination and focused discipline.
Pre-professional ballet students will find that mastering pointe work correctly and at the proper stage in their development will increase their chances of being hired by a professional company and will prolong their dance careers by avoiding injuries.
So, what do I look for in determining whether a student is ready for pointe? First and foremost, I would not consider any student for pointe who does not take at least 3-4 proper hour-and-a-half ballet technique classes per week. The student must also have studied classical ballet for at least 3 years with an approved instructor.
Secondly, I look at the student's muscle development and monitor their placement and alignment while in class. If they cannot consistently balance in releve on one foot or the ankles quiver while at the barre, then they have not yet attained the muscle control or coordination required for pointe work. Around the age of 9-11, the cartilage growth plates begin to harden in the feet and therefore it is not advisable to begin pointe prior to this phase of growth. Pre-pointe exercises done on flat may be started around age 9-10 to prepare for the future inclusion of pointe work. Ankle flexibility and the articulation of the foot when pointed are also taken into consideration. Students with low arches/flat feet or inflexible ankles would have a tremendously difficult time rising en pointe and attaining proper form.
Third, I assess the commitment and emotional maturity of the student. Since pointe work requires additional study, it may not be appropriate for students who cannot commit to at least 3-4 classes per week. Without this minimum number of technique classes to build up and maintain proper form, a dancer might sustain severe injuries attempting to dance on pointe.
Ultimately a student will be placed on pointe when they are physically and emotionally ready. There is not one formula that every dancer fits into and therefore as dance educators, we must look at each student individually. Putting large groups or entire classes on pointe for the convenience of scheduling is not a recommended practice. With dedicated study and knowledgeable and individually tailored instruction, ballet dancers will find that the dream of dancing on pointe is quite attainable!
Erika Lindblom - Dance Instructor, Lake Norman Performing Arts