An Ode to the Perfect Ballet Bun

The Perfect Ballet bun is very tight, very neat, and very controlled. It sits close to the head at the back of the skull, flowing organically from the back of the head in a way that accentuates the line of the neck and the shape of the head. It is pulled tight back, each hair neat and confined within the bun, with no stray hairs marring the line. The bun itself is coiled as flat against the head as possible to avoid unnecessary protrusion. It remains neat. It can withstand eight hours of training and rehearsal and grands battements and grands jetés. Which is to say, it can likely withstand Armageddon and remain polished and perfect.

MY perfect ballet bun is quite another story.

My perfect ballet bun happens at five thirty in the morning, after not enough sleep, no shower, and no breakfast. It happens even before my first cup of tea, which is a feat in itself, as very little happens before my first cup of tea. It walks a delicate tightrope, being tight enough not to fail structurally at a crucial moment, and yet not so tight that it gives me a headache. The subway will take care of that on its own and needs no help from my hair. It does not lie flat against my head, as my hair is too thick to coil flat. Instead, it piles up in a rough coil atop my head, leaving the back of my head unimpeded should I feel the need to lie down on my back on the mat and surrender to muscle fatigue at any time.

It is not neat and controlled, and yet it is not exactly messy, as messiness in my personal appearance just isn’t in my nature. My perfect ballet bun is vast. It contains multitudes. That’s part of why it’s so big, not just because my hair is thick enough to braid ropes and destroy elastic bands.

My ballet bun is held up with handmade, heavy-duty Amish steel. Four three-inch pins give it structural integrity. Sometimes my hair starts to reject them and then have to be nudged back in because my hair does not take kindly to discipline or interlopers. But I am the master of my hair. Sometimes.

My ballet bun withstands a 45-minute subway ride, a short walk, and a 50-minute barre class with only minimal wisping. But by the time I finish class, it shows signs of wear. It releases tendrils at the back of the neck and at my temples. And small pieces start to work their way out of the bun itself. I like to think it looks romantic and chic, but mostly it looks tired and probably a little greasy from the sweat.

But my ballet bun serves. It keeps my hair out of my face during pliés and Pilates, during aerials, and even, when it make it a bit neater, during a day of work at the office. It does accentuate the line of my neck and the grace of a body that still hasn’t completely forgot to be a dancer. And that’s why it’s my perfect ballet bun.

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