Paul Taylor dancer Maria Ambrose

Laura Halzack, Courtesy Paul Taylor Dance Company

How Do You 'Do? Pro-Approved Styles for Every Hair Texture

Want to give your studio style an extra bit of oomph? Take out that eternally slicked bun and spice up your rehearsal with head-turning hair. To help you brainstorm your next look, we asked four dancers, each with different hair textures, to tell us how they create their go-to rehearsal styles.


Curly Hair

Amanda Smith, Dance Theatre of Harlem

Favorite rehearsal style: French twist. "It's a classic look," Smith says. "I feel professional in it, and that helps my dancing. Plus, it goes well with any leotard."

  1. Part hair on your preferred side.
  2. Add styling gel of choice. "You can't just put curls into a French twist without anything on them," says Smith.
  3. Use a smoothing brush (with bristles close together) to smooth the curls down to your head.
  4. Gather hair into a low ponytail at the nape of your neck without an elastic.
  5. Begin twisting from the bottom of the head, pulling upward, and begin securing the hair with bobby pins as you go. "I have more curls underneath, so I start there to make sure everything is in place before moving to the top," Smith says.
  6. Once at the top of the head, twist the leftover curls into a small bun secured by more pins.
  7. Add more gel to hold hair in place. "The curls are going to want to come out; use the gel to avoid flyaways," Smith says.
  8. Finish with a small amount of light-hold hair spray. "Go for the least intense hair spray," Smith says. "That way your hair won't dread when you take it out at the end of the day."

Takiyah Wallace, Courtesy Smith

Favorite Products:

  • ECO Style Professional Styling Gel
  • TRESemmé hair spray
  • DevaCurl leave-in conditioner
  • Renpure Originals argan oil conditioner
  • SheaMoisture Fruit Fusion Coconut Water Weightless Texture Spray. "This keeps the curls moisturized, bouncy and healthy," she says.

Tips for Managing Curly Hair:

  • "Be aware of how easy it is for your curls to dry out," Smith says. "I really have to focus on moisture, especially while touring different cities with different climates."
  • Use products that come in spray form so they don't weigh down your curls.
  • Don't wash your hair every day, or it will lose its moisture.
  • When you do wash your hair, stick to products (shampoos, conditioners, hair spray, gel, etc.) with less alcohol and more natural ingredients.

Coily Hair

Paige Fraser, The Lion King on tour

Favorite rehearsal style: Fro-hawk. "There's a lot you can do with natural hair—it's so versatile," Fraser says. "This simple style takes less than a minute. It allows you to keep your hair out of the way while still framing your face and keeping your look sleek."

  1. Sleep in two-strand twists or braids with a leave-in conditioner or oil the night before to give your hair added definition.
  2. Add edge control (or your favorite styling gel) to your hairline near the side of your face.
  3. Use a brush to smooth one side of the hair upward and toward the middle of the head.
  4. Hold the hair back with your fingers to maintain tension while slipping a bobby pin into place just below your fingers to secure it.
  5. Cross another bobby pin over the first in the opposite direction for added hold.
  6. You can finish there with a half fro-hawk, or repeat on the other side of the head for a full fro-hawk.
  7. Fluff and shape the hair to desired style.
  8. For a sleeker, more dramatic look, add more pins along the sides.

Michelle Reid, Courtesy Fraser

Favorite Products:

  • Anything Carol's Daughter
  • SheaMoisture Curl & Style Milk
  • Curls Blueberry & Mint Tea Scalp Treatment
  • ORS Olive Oil Edge Control hair gel
  • ECO Style Professional Styling Gel
  • Moroccan oil

Tips for Managing Coily Hair:

  • "Embrace the beauty of your hair texture," Fraser says. "Take time when you aren't dancing to let your hair out to thrive and be fabulous!"
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize—with oil. "But don't put it on in the morning or it will get on the floor while you dance," Fraser says.
  • Shop around. "Everyone's natural hair is different, so it's really just trial and error for what oils will be best on your hair," Fraser says.
  • Sleep with your hair in two-strand twists, braids or cornrows. "These are protective styles that will keep the moisture locked in much better than leaving it out and wild," she says.
  • Tie your hair with a silk scarf while you sleep.
  • Get regular trims.
  • Avoid too much heat, which can lead to damage.

Wavy Hair

Lia Cirio, Boston Ballet

Favorite rehearsal style: Dutch braid into a low bun. "This has been my go-to lately," Cirio says. "My facial structure is severe, and this look softens me a bit. Plus, my hair tends to get frizzy when I'm sweaty, and a braid controls it."

  1. Take a small section of hair from the center of your hairline.
  2. Begin braiding backward. (A Dutch braid is done exactly like a French braid, except you cross the strands under rather than over each other.)
  3. Continue creating the braid down the center of the head moving to the nape of the neck until all of the hair has been picked up.
  4. Secure the hair in a low ponytail using an elastic.
  5. Twist the hair into a low bun, pinning with large, U-shaped bobby pins as you go.
  6. Once finished, fix bubbled or rogue hairs by tucking them into the braid and securing them with bobby pins.
  7. Pin wispies near the front of the face back.
  8. Secure with hair spray if your waves need it.

Addie Tapp, Courtesy Boston Ballet

Favorite Products:

  • Prose shampoo and conditioner. "You take a survey about your hair type, and they create a formula just for you," she says. "It smells great, too!"
  • U-shaped bobby pins from Ricky's in New York City
  • Scünci thick, black elastics
  • R+Co Death Valley Dry Shampoo

Tips for Managing Wavy Hair:

  • "Because my hair is both thick and wavy, I often use hot tools so it's easier to manage," Cirio says. "That means I have to take extra care of it to avoid damage."
  • Don't wash your hair every day. "I wash my hair every three days," Cirio says. "This protects my hair from the damage of daily drying and straightening. Plus, it saves me time and energy."
  • Use dry shampoo. "This gives your hair more grip," Cirio says.
  • Let your hair air dry whenever possible.

Straight Hair

Maria Ambrose, Paul Taylor Dance Company

Favorite rehearsal style: Half up, half down with a braid. "My hair is slippery, and rarely listens to me, so I can't just put it in a bun or ponytail," Ambrose says. "I don't like the slicked look, so to keep some volume and movement without my hair falling out, I wear it half up, half down with a braid. It makes me feel more ferocious."

  1. Part your hair on your preferred side.
  2. Add a texture spray of your choice. "I put a sea salt spray in it to give it some grip," Ambrose says.
  3. Grab a chunk of hair near your forehead opposite the part.
  4. Begin French braiding the top half of your hair from the hairline to the back of your head. "I want a bit of a messy look, so I don't worry too much about being exact as I grab pieces of hair," Ambrose says.
  5. Once the braid has reached the back of the head, secure it using a bobby pin.
  6. Then, take the top half of the hair from the other side of your head and pull it to meet the braided hair in the back of the head. "Spray some water on it to control your wispies," Ambrose says. Then secure both sides together with an elastic. For more texture, curl your hair before beginning.

Laura Halzack, Courtesy Paul Taylor Dance Company

Favorite Products:

  • The Gnarly Whale Sea Salt Spray
  • OGX Argan Oil of Morocco Dry Shampoo
  • Ribbed bobby pins. "The smooth ones fuel the hair-slipping fire," Ambrose says.
  • Ribbed hair elastics

Tips for Managing Straight Hair:

  • "Straight hair gets so smooth that it can be hard to manage when you're dancing," Ambrose says. "You have to get creative to help it stay in place."
  • Use texture spray. "It's the only way I don't get a note about my hair during a show," she says.
  • Don't wash your hair the day before a performance. "You need to have some dirt and oil in it to weigh it down," Ambrose says.
  • Use water to put hair into place, and immediately use hair spray to keep it from moving. "That seems to keep the baby hairs in line," she says.

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