10 ways to spot a bunhead

Bunhead (noun): an extremely dedicated female ballet student or professional. Derives from “bun” (a tight roll of hair in the shape of a cinnamon bun, on the back of the head) and “head” (that thing humans tend to have on top of the rest of their body).


It’s summertime, which means the jackets are off, skimpy clothing is in, which makes it the ideal season for spotting bunheads.

Bunheads come in all sizes and shapes. Ages, too. In their juvenile form, a bunhead is easy to spot. The bun, for starters. The gangly limbs and thin frame, the earnest expression, the leotard, the preference for staying in a pack (young bunheads are very conformist). They can be found either en route to the ballet studio, or returning from it, or anywhere lost in thought, dreaming of what happened, or will happen, at aforementioned studio.

Bunheads don’t die off young, as one might be led to believe, given the dramatic drop in bunhead sightings past age sixteen, and further reduction after age 25. It is simply that older bunheads opt for camouflage and/or cease to venerate conformist attire and behavior. Thus disguised, they retain their private identity as they move into adulthood, through middle age, and even beyond. Yes. A sixty-year old woman can be a bunhead, no matter what she wears or what her hair looks like.

The adult bunhead can still be spotted by the discerning observer. Below are ways and places in which such an encounter might occur.

10 Ways to Spot a Bunhead

  1. In yoga class: she’s the one lifting her hip in Warrior 3 position, and balancing in Tree Pose with a turned-out foot, instead of the preferred yogic parallel position. Attempts by teacher to remedy position will not last, as the bunhead body rapidly returns to what is ingrained.
  2. At a public swimming pool: you’ll see her practicing her développé a la seconde in five feet of water, grinning because her extension is so high and effortless. Will also perform grand jeté leaps underwater while arm remain still and pretty.
  3. In the post office line: she’s the one who waits by standing in fourth position. Or fifth. Or, if the line is super slow, watch closely and you will spot her doing a furtive tendu to the front, to the side. Maybe even a little relevé. In extremely long waits, a shift to one foot, with the other foot tucked in a neat coupé or sur le cou de pied.
  4. In long hallways (think empty corridors, the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, shopping mall), you can spot the urge in them to take off running into a tombe, pas de bourré, glissade, and big-assed leap. On very rare occasions, the adult bunhead will lose inhibition and go for it. Such inhibition usually requires considerable consumption of alcoholic beverage beforehand.
  5. In the wild, during an unexpected downpour in a rain-deprived region, where the adult bunhead might lack the inhibition of the previous situation. Sightings are less rare, but still relatively uncommon.

Below is rare footage of an adult bunhead spotted in the wild:

6.  On the beach, under the shade of an umbrella, where beach bag includes water, nutty snacks, 70 SPF sunscreen (bunheads rarely seek out a tan—their species prefers to remain pale and unblemished) and one or more of the following paperbacks: Astonish Me, Bunheads, Off Balance, (PS: this one is FREE this week!) Girl Through Glass, Misty Copeland’s Life in Motion.

7.  At the grocery store, where her cart will include yogurt cups, bottled water, Diet Coke, plus over a dozen Luna or Kind bars, or one of the dozens of healthy-but-not-totally bars out there.

8.  In restaurants, where they sit very tall, erect, like a princess at a state dinner, and try, not always successfully, to avoid the carbs and scarf down the protein. Gives self brownie points for eating all her vegetables. (Literal “brownie” points.)

9.  At the pharmacy/drugstore, her purchase will include bobby pins, black ponytail holders, Band-Aids, hairspray and corn pads.

10. Her phone has a classical music ringtone that, invariably, is Tchaikovsky and, equally invariably, is an excerpt from Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty or The Nutcracker.

Have you spotted a bunhead this season? Got any dead-giveaway tips to add? We’d love to hear about it, and encourage you to share your stories of sightings of bunheads in the wild. Send me a photo and I’ll add it to this post. In the meantime, here are two sensational photos from photographer extraordinaire, Jordan Matter, taken from his book, Dancers Among Us. Check it out; the photos are sublime. You can visit his website HERE.

photographer Jordan Matter
photographer Jordan Matter

10 thoughts on “10 ways to spot a bunhead”

  1. Love love love the spotting of that gorgeous bunhead in the wild. An extremely rare sighting – a pluviophilic bunhead! I do believe I’m a bunhead wannabe. I remember the days when I wore my hair long enough to pull up and twist into a bun, securing it with a single large bobby pin. And though I’m not schooled in ballet, I exhibit some of the standing-in-line tendencies to move my body.

    Thanks for a delightful post, Terez!

    • I know, right, Annette? The rare, elusive pluviophilic bunhead. To think it was caught on film! LOL. Fun to see your comment – thank you!

    • It truly is a ballet peep thing to do, isn’t it? Actually, maybe it’s a yogi thing to do, as well. Lately, I’ve found myself balancing on one leg, the other foot in a little cou de pied, and pulling in my core & abdominal muscles as if I were rising to relevé or doing a handstand (exact same muscles – way cool!). It really is a productive way to kill time in a boring line! : )

      Thanks for posting your comment, kitteacat!

  2. Even long after quitting ballet, it looks like that I’m still a bunhead at heart. Yes, I do admit doing my developpes and grande jetes in the swimming pool!

    • Lynn, I chuckled out loud when I read your post. Yep, being a bunhead is a terminal condition. (And I would be SO happy if this auto-correct program would stop trying to replace “bunhead” with “bunched.”) Thanks for leaving your comment. Would be great fun to see others come forward with similar surprise (to themselves) admissions.

  3. I was always a bunhead in my mind. After a couple of attempts at ballet (aged 13 – could it have been more awkward in class with 4 year olds? And in college – could it have been more awkward in class with 19 year olds who had been doing ballet since they were 4?) I gave up, and I found your blog while looking for advice on the other thing I am about to take up at 42 years old: the violin. Regardless of the attempts and giving up in my past, I still releve’ in line, I still tendu while waiting for the copier to finish its job, and bourre’ around the kitchen while the pasta boils. Consequently, I still have amazing calf muscles 😉

    • Aimee, your post was so much fun to read! I chuckled at the images you conjured. I first took class at age 10, with 6 yr olds, and for the first two years I felt so self-conscious at recitals. freakishly taller and older. It was such a relief, three years later, to finally be put with same-sized/aged girls. Crack me up that you are an innate bunhead who came here to seek advice on playing the violin as an adult beginner. (Yup, that was me too.)

      Best of luck to you on the violin, and go head back to an adult ballet class – you’ll love the mix these days. Thanks for sharing here! Are you a writer, too? You sure sound like one. (If not, your next pinnacle to scale!)


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