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Short-haired Ballerinas


canbelto

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Talking of Guillem, when her latest collaboration with Maliphant ('Push') premiered in London last year she danced wearing a very short wig. Naturally, she left it on for the special post performance talk session which directly followed the perfomance (with Guillem and Maliphant coming back onto the stage) and of course being Guillem she enjoyed refusing to confirm or deny whether she had actually cut her hair cut short or not. There was some mild speculation for a day or two afterwards.

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Her hair is long now, at least from recent pictures I've seen. I've seen pictures where it's actually somewhat stringy and she's not wearing much makeup at all, and it kind of ruined the image I had of her as an impeccable glamour queen. More Sylvie stories: I heard this interview with her on the BBC in which the interviewer rather tactlessly asked her how she was dealing with "the ravages of time." "Ze ravages of time, as you zo kindly poot eet," Sylvie shot back. I wondered about the safety of the interviewer for a day or two.

Back to short-haired ballerinas: here's a picture of Darcey Bussell in a really really big, intrusive wig, dancing Ballet Imperial. Her hair must REALLY be supershort nowadays.

ETA: Irina Golub of the MT also has short short hair.

Edited by canbelto
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Karen Kain cut her hair short late in her career, and in her autobiography she said it felt something like a declaration of maturity and independence (not a quote, my summary of her observations).

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I think for most female ballet dancers, short hair is a message to themselves and to others about their relationship to the norm. Another dancer who eschewed the bun is Tai Jimenez of Dance Theater of Harlem, who danced the "Dark Angel" part in Serenade with close cropped natural hair - although I think she's wearing her hair long enough for a bun again.

Regarding Manon's short hair - would the haircut have something to do with avoiding head lice on the journey and in the penal colony?

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canbelto, it looks like all the dancers - both men and women - are wearing platinum wigs in Ballet Imperial.

Thank for the link. :) That gallery also has pics from Afternoon of a Faun, showing two dancers with very long hair - the blonde Sarah Lamb and the brunette Roberta Marquez. I wonder what conditioner Marquez uses. her hair is incredibly lustrous.

In recent interviews, Natalie Portman who shaved her head for her latest movie 'V for Vendetta' and is keeping it quite short has said similar things about feeling mature and not giving into feminine sterotypes, etc.

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In that same photo set, one can't tell whether Ansanelli's hair is long or short in the Tchai PdD, but who cares, it's the dancer beneath the hair that really matters. Also, regarding the earlier reference to Kate Johnson's short hair in Barber Violin Concerto, what made her performance unmatchable wasn't the hair, but the fact that one of the century's greatest dancers was under it (although I'm sure it was a sly reference to the composer's name).

Still, I vote for long...

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I've always thought that Manon's hair in the last act was that length because she and the other women had had their heads shaved when they were sentenced and it had just grown back to that length by the time they got off the ship - but I may have made that up.

Also, didn't something catastrophic happen to Makarova's long hair? I'm sure I remember in one of her documentaries she talks about having some treatment at a salon in Paris when something went disastrously wrong and all the girls stood round saying 'Oh Madame! Oh la la!' - was it after that perhaps that she had it short?

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I've always thought that Manon's hair in the last act was that length because she and the other women had had their heads shaved when they were sentenced and it had just grown back to that length by the time they got off the ship - but I may have made that up.

That was my thought also, but I don't have anything to back it up, either. :):beg:

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Also, regarding the earlier reference to Kate Johnson's short hair in Barber Violin Concerto, what made her performance unmatchable wasn't the hair, but the fact that one of the century's greatest dancers was under it (although I'm sure it was a sly reference to the composer's name).

You're right about the dancer under the hair, drb. Everybody who did the role subsequently also did it with short hair, but the memory of Kate Johnson remains indelible.

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Everybody who did the role subsequently also did it with short hair. . .
I didn't see her do it, FF, but I think I saw photo(s) of Ashley Bouder barefoot in BVC, hair in a top-knot.
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Also, didn't something catastrophic happen to Makarova's long hair? I'm sure I remember in one of her documentaries she talks about having some treatment at a salon in Paris when something went disastrously wrong and all the girls stood round saying 'Oh Madame! Oh la la!' - was it after that perhaps that she had it short?

I know that Makarova had a major hair disaster in her first tour to London in 1961. She was set to dance Giselle the next day, and put curlers in her hair, but misjudged the timing completely, and parts of her hair got burnt off. She donned an emergency wig for her performance, but it was a big success anyway. As I said, Giselle is probably the most difficult ballet to pull off a wig, just because the hair is such a big part of the ballet's tradition.

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Regarding R&J, at an Insight event about a month ago I was stunned to learn how many wigs there are - When Juliet's hair is up in the ballroom? A wig. I didn't take notes, but there's an enormous number of wigs for the Royal Ballet - I think many more than we'd ever guess....

Monica Mason's hair was mentioned earlier - yeah, it's short, but definitely not close to a buzz cut.

Ansanelli's hair is still long (and has inspired my latest ballet bun...) - but people are right about Marquez's hair, and I'd say, Tamara's. Seriously, those women need to do some conditioner adverts. I'd buy whatever they use.

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Everybody who did the role subsequently also did it with short hair. . .
I didn't see her do it, FF, but I think I saw photo(s) of Ashley Bouder barefoot in BVC, hair in a top-knot.

Oops! I did see Bouder in the part, but didn't notice her hair. Apologies for the misinformation.

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Ansanelli's hair is still long (and has inspired my latest ballet bun...) - but people are right about Marquez's hair, and I'd say, Tamara's. Seriously, those women need to do some conditioner adverts. I'd buy whatever they use.

And Svetlana Zakharova's!!! You can go here click on the galleries and drool at her hair.

Diana Vishneva, however, has long but sort of thick and coarse hair, but somehow still manages to look chic during practices.

I wish Lopatkina would grow out her hair. Her dark, super-short hair-cut IMO makes her look a bit severe-looking, and from all the interviews I've read she's intelligent and super-charming.

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I've been rereading this interesting discussion. The comments on Manon brought back memories of photos taken after the German defeat in France in 1945: people in the streets cutting the hair of French women who had had liaisons with members of the German occupation force. It was a public shaming. The faces in the crowd are exultant. The women being sheared look stunned. Similar rituals took place in Italy and all over Europe.

The symbolism may also be connected to old Judeo-Christian religious ideas (still in force in much of Islam and orthodox Judaism) that a woman's hair is a temptation to lust and vanity, and a distraction from God.

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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!)

Eek. Either way, I've always found that the Manon wig looks "cheap." I get the idea of convict, or unhealthy, or a form or humiliation, or a combo of all three; but I agree - YIKES. In the production I saw, the wig looked a size to big for her head or something - it didn't convince me that she REALLY horrible hair. I think I'm being inarticulate...anyway, I guess I'm saying I understand the desired look, but suspect that maybe some of us have seen versions of Manon where the wig wasn't top quality and therefore looked ineffective.

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Another short-haired actress, from the Jewels dvd documentary: Clairemarie Osta. In this case I think it really fits her doe-eyed, pixie-ish personality.

I think Johan Kobborg wears a wig because he's actually bald ...

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MORE "HAIRY" stories:

I too have old pics of Christine Sarry, Zizi Jeanmaire, Gelsey and Makarova with short hair. Gelsey wore scarves too. The 3x I saw Gelsey this October (once close, mostly more afar) her hair appeared to be long. I thought all the above looked fine with short hair. I had heard the story about Makarova 'burning' her hair before too, and always thought that's why she loved scarves--more than some Russian "babushka" affinity. And yes, Manon has a shaved head because she was a convict and historically they did that to denote and denigrate them AND prevent lice infections--many 18th c. naval officers of the time also had short hair for the same reason (prevent lice) under their wigs.

I too cut my hair after my professional dance career ended--but it took a long time (almost 10 YEARS later) before I cut it above my shoulders. Now, the older I get (and busier) the shorter it gets--not a "buzz" yet, but I do get tempted. I had problems keeping it in a bun when I was dancing because it was very long, straight, and thick. Nets, pins, shellac, hairspray--nothing really worked well. I remember once doing a chaines /double pirouette sequence across the rehearsal room and literally spraying everyone with 'bobby pins'. Eventually I resorted to braiding it first before putting it in a bun so net/pins could actually reach my skull to secure it--the bun would slip down but not come apart. Later, I did a little "dutch girl" thing: I made two long braids and wound them around my head. Not all O-O's I've seen had a bun--the feathery earmuffs usually covered the head enough so buns (or not) didn't matter. Now if only I could have managed that braided Juliet ballroom "do".

The only people I remember donning full wigs rather than hairpieces were those old RB "Sleeping Beauty" and "Nutcrackers" which made everyone look like a Royal Doulton figurine.

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Interesting discussion here. So let me ask a rather dumb question. Why do ballerinas have long hair? I always associated long hair kept in a tight bun as iconic of a ballerina. But until reading this thread about dancers who have short hair, I never thought about why is it that they all (almost) have long hair. Certainly if you DO have long hair, keeping it in a bun would make dancing "easier".

I assumed wearing it in bun was a way to make the head a uniform shape and allow the neck and head to be seen without hair interfering with the line. Whilst long hair has a very feminine even sensual look, a tight bun often is seen as matronly which is definitely the way I see young beautiful dancers.

When a dancer lets her hair down... as I recall in Romero and Juliet my impression was it was to make Juliet look more childlike and so the hair was used like a costume prop so to speak. Obviously hair style is very much a part of the look for each role... with the bun being the most common style... no?

Can someone speak to the tradition of long hair and tight buns on ballerinas? Where did it start? Why?

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Can someone speak to the tradition of long hair and tight buns on ballerinas? Where did it start? Why?

AFAIK, the "tight bun" look started with Olga Spessivtseva. Pictures of Tamara Karsavina, Mathilde Kschessinska, Anna Pavlova, et al. show hair often worn in nets. Sometimes the hair is worn in ringlets, sometimes they even wore fros, and Anna Pavlova channeled Princess Leia.

I think a tight bun makes the head look smaller, and that's a feature that's more and more prized in ballerinas. For instance, sometimes I think the heads look too small.

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Why long? Why buns?

Others can probaby write more on this, but since the beginnings of ballet (18th century?) women have had long hair and used wigs. The British still use wigs in their law courts, parliamentary (just H of Lords?) events etc.! Short hair (except during those wild 1920's when the "bob" was current with the general populace) was still considered a mark of illness or a shameful or criminal conviction. (Now if it's too short, some people wonder about a woman's sexual orientation--how sad is that?!) Since Balanchine had such an influence on the "ideal" female dancer's physique: pinhead, long neck/legs, arms, underweight androgyny; I always thought it odd that he loved long hair too--the only truly feminine trait to survive that "ideal." Of course more modern choreographers have loved a more "natural" look so no buns, and it's permissible to 'fling' whatever hair you have as you move.

The reason ballet dancers put it into a bun is so:

(1) They can "spot" correctly doing turns. (It's a lot harder to find/see your spot if your hair is whipping about) A case in point for the same reason: figure skaters: single skaters and females in 'pairs'duos usually have it short or up; only women ice dancers have it long because they usually are moving slower and not doing all those "scratch spins." (Of course lately many MALE skaters have grown their hair long, I guess to look more "hip" or rebellious?)

(2) The hair doesn't get sweaty and/or tangled in itself or with arms or costumes etc. while dancing everything else.

(3) It's less likely to hit your partner in the face and distract him/her (though I've seen many a poor Romeo suffer that indignity and have to blink fast to save his eyes and still catch Juliet in the Bedroom Pdd. (e.g.: also one of the reasons I don't think Ferri's La Scala R&J video ends well--her hair entirely covers her face in the final tableau in the tomb--why she didn't have that braided headress holding it out of her eyes I don't know.)

Just some thoughts. I am sure others can think of more reasons.

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Could another reason for the hair being worn in a bun is to reveal the neck and the line of the body through to the top of the head without the "confusion" of hair?

Pulled back hair worn in a bun can look very sophisticated and elegant and it clearly defines the shape of the head and never conceals any part of the face.

No?

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Could another reason for the hair being worn in a bun is to reveal the neck and the line of the body through to the top of the head without the "confusion" of hair?

Pulled back hair worn in a bun can look very sophisticated and elegant and it clearly defines the shape of the head and never conceals any part of the face.

No?

Absolutely! A high bun can also correct the appearance of an excessively flat head and makes an excellent platform for a tiara.

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Recent pictures of Uliana Lopatkina seem to indicate she's grown out her hair, as has Veronika Part.

But back to short hair: I was surprised to read that Mathilde Kschessinskaya had short hair and wore wigs during her performing career, that she would curl into the latest fashions, whatever they happened to be.

Natalia Osipova also has shortish hair.

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