How To Create The Perfect Ballerina Bun

A Nutcracker Dancer And Her Daughter Show You How

A beautiful, secure hair bun is a crucial part of any ballerina’s look, from the youngest student to the professionals—and no more so than onstage in Nutcracker! We asked SF Ballet Soloist Dana Genshaft to show how she ties the perfect “Figure 8” ballerina bun for her daughter Nadia…

Dana Genshaft in Tomasson's The Sleeping Beauty (© Erik Tomasson)

(Dana says: “I was actually personally taught how to tie this style of bun by none other than Elyse Borne, the New York City Ballet dancer who now stages ballets all over the world. I had just joined SF Ballet, and one night she came backstage and taught us all how to tie the perfect Figure 8 bun—and I’ve never forgotten it. It’s what she calls a good Balanchine bun!”)

  • 1: Prep and Brush

    Firstly, it’s important that the hair isn’t freshly washed! Don’t wash your hair before a performance; a Sugar Plum Fairy needs her hairstyle to stay firm.

    Brush the hair to make it smooth and tangle-free.

  • 2: Flip and Gather

    Lower the head to flip the hair over, and gather it into a very high ponytail/topknot by brushing it into your hands.

    Bring the head back up and secure this ponytail with a band.

  • 3: Spritz and Smooth

    Spritz the hair with firm-hold hairspray...

    ...and gently brush the hair upwards to capture all those little “stragglers”.

  • 4: Twist To Create Your Figure 8 (Part 1)

    Okay, this is the important part. If you just twist the whole ponytail into a regular bun straightaway, it’ll fall apart in minutes – so I do it in two sections. Most girls’ hair is also naturally many different lengths, so this also makes sure that all of the hair is secured in the bun.

    Split the ponytail into two, hold one section high and start twisting it.

    Then bring it down and wind it clockwise around the base of the ponytail—this is the top part of your ‘figure 8.

    Secure this first piece there with all the pins you need – too many is better than too few.

  • 5: Twist To Create Your Figure 8 (Part 2)

    Next, take the remaining loose half of the ponytail and start twisting that too. Bring it down and wind it counterclockwise around the back part of the base of the ponytail—this is the bottom part of your figure 8, and when you’re done you’ll see how the bun looks like an "8".

    Secure with many pins and spritz again with hairspray.

  • 6: Hairnet (optional)

    For a super-firm style, secure the bun with a hairnet. Widen the hairnet out over the bun with your hands then bring it down over it, and pin it on by pushing more pins all around the bun. Pin it to death and spritz with hairspray.

  • 7: Tiara (optional)

    A tiara is a beautiful finishing touch. Nadia was lucky enough to model this one from SF Ballet’s wardrobe department!

    Secure the tiara onto the head by pushing the wire close to the bun, and hold in place with more pins.

  • 8: Showtime!

    And that’s how Nadia and I create a perfect ballerina bun!

Do you have your own method of creating a beautiful ballerina bun? Tell us in the comments!

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