Ladies' Hairstyles for Ballroom Competition
By Alexandra Caluen

The stereotypical lady ballroom dancer's hairstyle is an elaborate updo, teased and tweaked into an architectural marvel, shellacked into place with gallons of gel and spray, and embellished with rhinestones, pins, combs, and/or feathers. Such a style has its charms, but is difficult to achieve without professional help. What a relief that for many competitors, it's not necessary.

Like costume, hairstyle at bronze, silver, or novice levels should be selected more for comfort than showmanship. The judges do prefer your hair off your face and somewhat confined; it's hazardous, distracting, and messy-looking to have loose hair flying everywhere. However, long-haired ladies will not be penalized for dancing with a simple style, such as pulling the front hair into a high ponytail and leaving the back loose. Just be sure to secure a ponytail with a grippy elastic, not a slippery scrunchie. Use Frizz-Ease or a similar product to ensure a smooth finish. A braid would also be acceptable, but use braids with caution if your routines include turns. Your partner will not appreciate getting a braid in the face at high speed.

Short-haired ladies should practice using gel on their damp hair, to shape it away from the face. As the gel sets, give your hair one or two light coats of spray. Try to style your hair at least an hour in advance so that you can test how it will hold. Use unscented hairspray. Old-fashioned aerosol-type cans produce a finer spray than pump bottles.

Advanced competitors with longer hair most often choose a chignon (confining the hair at the neck), a French braid, or an updo. A secure updo starts with damp hair and a high ponytail. Brush the ends with gel before you begin, and spray lightly as you go along. Secure the hair in small sections by rolling it up and over; use two crossed bobby pins on each section, just where it curves over onto your head. If the middle of the section is properly secured, the ends become much easier to manage. You can twist each section a bit to secure the ends if not all your hair is the same length. Use crossed pins wherever possible and spray again when you finish. Do not be surprised if you use two dozen pins on one hairstyle.

Some experimenting will be necessary to find an arrangement you like, and you may find that it never comes out quite the same way twice. Consider this part of the endless variety of dancing, and don't let it bother you. Get a good-sized hand mirror to check all angles. Have a variety of silk flowers or rhinestone ornaments on French barrettes that you can clip onto one side or the other for balance, or just for color. Give yourself at least an hour to fix an updo and always test it with a few spins and a good shake. Properly assembled, an updo should last through hours of dancing.

A word of caution: do not try an updo for the first time on the day of a competition or performance! You will stress yourself out for sure. Do it first for practice, so you and your partner can get used to how it feels and how it changes your height. Give your partner a free pass the first two times his arm knocks into it; after that, he should know how to accommodate the new structure.

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