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Short-haired Ballerinas


canbelto

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I've noticed this trend more and more. In the past, ballerinas almost always had really long hair that they tied up with a bun, and they wouldn't cut it until they retired. But now I'm noticing that more and more ballerinas have very short hair, and that they use hair-pieces or probably even wigs when performing. Off the top of my head, I think Veronika Part, Uliana Lopatkina, Nina Ananiashvilli, Sofiane Sylve, and Darcey Bussell have pretty short hair. Susan Jaffe I know had really short hair too. I think Natalia Makarova towards the end of her career also had really short hair, and Sylvie Guillem for awhile had this short bob but now her hair's pretty long. I can understand how ballerinas would want a change after a whole lifetime of keeping hair shoulder length or long, but I admit it looks funny when I see pictures of Uliana Lopatkina and she has this super-short cut, and then in performance pictures she obviously has some kind of hair extension/wig. Isn't it easier to just keep your hair long instead of having to put on so much artificial hair during a performance? And can anyone think of any other bobbed ballerinas?

Unrelated: I really like Suzanne Farrell's new somewhat short, permed 'do. I think it looks nice and frames her face well.

Edited by canbelto
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The first ballet dancer I ever noticed with a short haircut was Stacey Calvert. I also remember that Kyra Nichols cut her hair shortish, i.e., just above the shoulder blades, and if I remember correctly, Judith Fugate kept hers around the same length for a number of years. But both Nichols and Fugate could put their hair up, although I don't know if they added more bun.

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This is speculation, but I guess dancers who don't need to have long hair (ex. they aren't going to be in a ballet like the late versions of Serenade), might find life is easier with short hair, what with all the showers after rehearsals and performances, wigs... I suppose that each company has its own culture regarding this issue.

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This is speculation, but I guess dancers who don't need to have long hair (ex. they aren't going to be in a ballet like the late versions of Serenade), might find life is easier with short hair, what with all the showers after rehearsals and performances, wigs... I suppose that each company has its own culture regarding this issue.
Re: Serenade and company culture, in the Dance Theatre of Harlem version, the women wear their hair up in buns. And it was in Serenade that I realized that Nichols' hair was shorter than Calegari's and Kistler's, and also that Saland's was not uber-long.
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bart, you're right -- Zizi Jeanmaire's hair was VERY much a trademark -- she looked liek a pixie.

In San Francisco, Muriel Maffre has very short hair, almost as short as that.

It's worth noting that Sylvie Guillem's ear-length page-boy haircut, with bangs -- kind of a Buster Brown, like Louise Brooks' but a little longer --is built into Forsythe's Paris-Opera ballet "in the middle somewhat elevated.' The role was made on Guillem It's part of the ballerina costume, the (red?) page-boy wig. When Maffre made her debut at SFB, it was in this role, and many of us remember the insoucinance of that hair as against her astonishing feet, which she used like knives.

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Lindy Roy, towards the end of her career, must have gone short, because she danced the Scherzo in Tchai Suite 3 in a terrible red wig. Looked like doll's hair!

Christine Sarry was a shortie, apparently at Eliot Feld's encouragement.

Kirov's Irina Sitnikova -- whose dancing I so admired -- had short hair. That explained why the shape of her head always looked so funny on stage -- the wig.

One dancer I knew had bangs cut at the start of the company's lay off. She had to instruct her hairdresser to leave them so they'd be long enough to pin back when the next season started.

I think there are advantages and disadvantages to both. If you go short, care is easier, but you have to dance in a wig, which must get awfully hot :lightbulb: ! If you go long, no wig, but lots of time devoted to care.

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At a recent production of Mauricio Wainrot's "Rite of Spring," all the women had long hair (natural, I think). The hair -- often tossed, flailed, swirled, etc. -- became a kind of third arm in the choreography.

Are there any (perhaps more classical) ballets in which the movement of long hair is actually factored in by the choreographer?

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This is an enjoyable subject. I want to thank carbro for mentioning the great Christine Sarry and canbelto for mentioning Suzanne's current hairdo. Although not strictly speaking a ballerina, the short-haired Kate Johnson has never been equaled in "Barber Violin Concerto."

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I'd imagine that it'd be harder to dance a role like Giselle in a wig, because it calls for three radically different hairdos all in one ballet. First hair up in a nice 'peasant' bun, or a somewhat frilly, girlish semi-pulled back 'do, then the hair has to suddenly come undone for the mad scene. Then in the second act there's not much choice -- Giselle has to wear that split-down-the-middle Wili 'do. I have no idea why someone who dances Giselle would choose to have short hair.

I saw a picture of Miyako Mishida where she has pretty short hair and bangs.

I wish Veronika Part would grow her hair long again. She could look like Ava Gardner.

Back to retired ballerinas, Monica Mason and Susan Jaffe now have hair so short it's like almost a buzzcut. I admit I don't really like it. I don't think any woman really looks good with hair THAT short. OTOH, Maya Plisetskaya keeps her hair the exact same way -- pulled back into a perfect neat little bun. Natalia Makarova has grown out her hair, and it's now shoulder-length again or even long. I liked Natalia Dudinskaya's middle-length, permed blond hair that she had up until her death I think. I saw Irina Kolpakova in the lobby and she has shoulder length hair still, but it's dark now and not dyed blond.

ETA: I found a very current picture of Guillem here. Her hair is really really long. I think it's pretty.

By the way, speaking of hair, what do ballerinas do for Marguerite and Armand? That calls for several radical hairdo changes, all in a very short span. I've always assumed that the 'party' Marguerite hair is a wig and that the 'bedside' Marguerite's hair is real ...

Edited by canbelto
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This is speculation, but I guess dancers who don't need to have long hair (ex. they aren't going to be in a ballet like the late versions of Serenade), might find life is easier with short hair, what with all the showers after rehearsals and performances, wigs... I suppose that each company has its own culture regarding this issue.

Re: Serenade and company culture, in the Dance Theatre of Harlem version, the women wear their hair up in buns. And it was in Serenade that I realized that Nichols' hair was shorter than Calegari's and Kistler's, and also that Saland's was not uber-long.

I doubt NYCB would like it if their hair was a bob or shorter. In an interview I did, a dancer said she was told by the company that since she was expected to dance Serenade next season, she should grow out her hair. The custom of loose hair in that ballet begin with Calegari, whose long red hair Balanchine admired. Not all companies do the late version.

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re: wigs. I think, sometimes, they use a faux bun, not a complete wig when just a bun is needed. They pin their hair back and then cap it with a knob of hair (just add a tiara and go!), so it looks like a real bun.

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I forgot! It was the thought that prompted my post.

Gelsey had short-ish hair for a while and did dance Giselle bewigged. A really good wig can be bunned up or loosened down, as happened in this case. Don't remember if she changed wigs for Act II or just added a chignon to her own.

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Are there any (perhaps more classical) ballets in which the movement of long hair is actually factored in by the choreographer?

How about the first three movements before T&V? Those girls all have to wear that llong, straight hair. I always assumed the NYCB used wigs for that one because how can all the girls have the same color and texture? Like how would Jenifer Ringer dance that because her hair is pretty dark and curly. Also Walpurgis Nights -- another huge 'uniform hair' piece.

I was watching 'Elusive Muse' and it was kind of funny to see Susan Jaffe dancing 'Mozartiana' with her dark bob.

Gelsey had short hair? That's new to me. I always thought she had long, sandy-blond hair with bangs. (And still does! In the recent issue of Dance Magazine there's a nice interview with her and she still looks the same.)

I'm dismayed that Altynai Asylumuratova chopped off her hair :lightbulb: Although her smile is as radiant as ever. That student is so lucky to get a hug from AA. I think I would literally die if I got a chance to meet her.

Edited by canbelto
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I saw Monique Meunier do the first movement of Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 with a sort of hair extension thing. The rest of the women appeared to have real hair, of varying length.

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In my experience (dancing a princess in Firebird), wigs are very, very hot. We wore long wigs so that our hair color & length would match (they were past our shoulder blades) & that had bangs. Now, just adding a hair piece to make a bun would be different, not as hot, but I can't imagine dancing principal roles, night after night, in a wig. I am so glad that wigs aren't the standard anymore (didn't they used to be?). Just to clarify I don't dance many principal roles, I am thinking of "real" ballerinas. I sweat enough without a wig.... :lightbulb:

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Gelsey had short hair? That's new to me. I always thought she had long, sandy-blond hair with bangs.
Just a bit below chin-length. It was (or appeared to be) very short-lived (no pun meant).
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Suzanne Farrell's new do: here.

While we're on hair, I dont really like that long, shaggy do that was so in for Russian danseurs in the 1980's. Especially during the course of the performance, that hair got so soggy and it really just looked like they needed a hair dryer. I did however love Nureyev's hair when he did those first Giselles with Fonteyn. Because I never get tired of looking at this photo: M&A.

Edited by canbelto
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Tara Birtwhistle, a principal with Royal Winnipeg Ballet Company, has had very short hair for a long time - often dyed platinum blonde (Annie Lennox style). Quite often for contemporary productions such as Messiah, Dracula and The Magic Flute she wears it very short and quite obviously dyed. For classical productions she wears a fake bun. She also has a tatoo on her ankle :lightbulb:

http://www.rwb.org/company/dancebio/tara.html

Edited by mmded
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Another ballet that's probably difficult to dance with short hair is R&J, because it has to be down, then up, then down, then up, and so on. I imagine it'd be much harder to manipulate a wig constantly than to do your own hair.

And speaking of ballet-specific wigs, I really dislike the super-short frizz wig that Manon has to wear in the last scene. I know it's supposed to represent how dire her health is but can't she do that without the frightful wig? I'm surprised ballerinas even agree to wear it. If I were a ballerina I wouldn't be happy about taking my curtain calls in that wig. I wouldn't be happy about wearing that wig, period.

It's almost as bad as Grigorivich's snowflake wigs .... :lightbulb:

There's a Carmen video with Makarova in a super-short, curly 'do that looks so awkward. Thankfully I think Makarova's super-short hair days were short-lived.

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........And speaking of ballet-specific wigs, I really dislike the super-short frizz wig that Manon has to wear in the last scene. I know it's supposed to represent how dire her health is but can't she do that without the frightful wig? I'm surprised ballerinas even agree to wear it. If I were a ballerina I wouldn't be happy about taking my curtain calls in that wig. I wouldn't be happy about wearing that wig, period.......

I think Manon's short hair is because she is a convict rather than being unhealthy (although she is that, too) and as such has had it cut that way prior to being put on the boat. Perhaps partly as a health consideration considering the (presumably) cramped and dirty conditions on board the boat. All the women convicts have had their hair cut that way.

I think the ballet is all the better for it as it is only increases the contrast to the Manon of the previous two acts. She is almost unrecognizable and that is precisely the point IMHO. Of all the dancers I've seen take on this role (most notably Guillem and Rojo) they seem to relish the opportunity to dance/act such a role that is so real, unforgiving, emotionally devastating and well, 'raw'.

(plus she still gets to have nice hair, frocks, jewelry, money, fur coat, admirers, a carriage in the other two acts!)

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If I were a ballerina I wouldn't be happy about taking my curtain calls in that wig. I wouldn't be happy about wearing that wig, period.
An artist has to be true to her character. How many interviews have you read of performers talking about putting on their costume for the first time opened up great insights into the role. I'm sure the same is true when appearance is transformed by hair or make-up?

Remember the tv movie, "Playing for Time" about the prisoners in the WWII concentration camp who formed an orchestra, thereby saving themselves but also giving the Nazis a showcase for how well they kept their inmates? All of the principal actresses agreed to shave their heads, except Marissa Berenson, who appeared with luxuriant auburn waves. While you could believe the others were ill-nourished and suffering, she looked like she'd just spent a week at a spa. She should have been given an ultimatum: your tresses or the role, but not both.

There's a Carmen video with Makarova in a super-short, curly 'do that looks so awkward. Thankfully I think Makarova's super-short hair days were short-lived.
Makarova's hair spent many years hidden beneath beautiful, long silk scarves. I liked her short do and thought it was fine in Carmen and other ballets that were not strictly classical.
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Makarova's hair spent many years hidden beneath beautiful, long silk scarves. I liked her short do and thought it was fine in Carmen and other ballets that were not strictly classical.

Yeah I did like the scarves.

About the Manon wig, I guess I've seen too many opera Manons, where Manon looks dreadful in the final scene, but she doesn't wear that kind of wig. But thanks to the people who point out that it's a convict wig ...

The Cinderella video with Guillem/Jude uses Guillem's bob to great effect. When she's Cinderella she wears a dowdy wig, pulled back by a bandana. But when she becomes a 1920's starlet, out comes the fashionable bob. I think it was probably to accompany Guillem's short hair at that time. I wonder if subsequent Cinderellas at the POB have to wear a 1920's bob wig to play the part.

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