Saturday, 14 November 2009

HAIR - Behind The Scenes at Strictly Come Dancing

You've heard about the make-up on Strictly Come Dancing in my earlier post, but now what about the hair? I got to hang around and chat to the hair stylists while dancers came and went through their Saturday afternoon hair routine. I mentioned before that each dancer has a folder with their dress designs in, any cuttings for hair and make-up ideas but certain dances tend to have accepted styles that go with them. Ballroom dances generally mean tied back or up-do style, whereas in Latin wavy hair is more the norm. For a dance like the Cha Cha, the hair is usually curly and bouncy to suit the mood of that particular dance.

Setting the curls

90% of the dancers have their hair set in rollers. Even if not wearing their hair particularly curly, this is the ideal starting point for most of their hair styles. Stars generally have 2 half hour slots to do their hair; they have the heated rollers put in and then get a (not so glamorous) hair net to wear while they go practice their dancing. Then it's back to the hair department to have the curls released. Sometimes a girl can go through this process up to 3 times if sweat and a vigourous dance routine causes the curls to fall out. The team can get everything done surprisingly quickly, we're told that on an editorial shoot double the time is usually allowed, but on Strictly there are lots of people to get through which means everyone has to be on their toes.

The team say it's always better to over-curl, rather than under-curl. You can always brush a curl out, but you can't put one in. Even so, some of the dancers still get a bit shocked to find they look like Shirley Temple straight after the curls come out. Most importantly though, doing hair for Strictly means hair has to work in 3D - this has got to look good from every angle and someone from the hair and make-up teams are present at the dress rehearsal to make sure everything looks fabulous.

Hair products

I ask the obvious question: How much hairspray do you get through? Apparently it's not as much as you'd expect but still probably equates to about 2 large cans each Saturday. L'Oreal Elnett is used for that final finishing spray but the hair team use a variety of products for hold including gel sprays and Tigi products. We gave the Tigi S Factor strawberry scented shine spray a sniff (it's lush) and they also swear by the Vivacious hairspray. When using the hot rollers they need a reliable setting product, usually Redkin's Spray Starch and L'Oreal's Tecni Pli.

Occasionally the team will cut or colour hair, but they try and avoid it to ensure everything runs smoothly - we're told that in last year's series, Vincent went out to perform with half a hair-cut. At the beginning of this series, Aliona was a blonde, but because there were already several blondes on the show, she volunteered to go redhead. Now she dyes it every couple of weeks. I was also keen to find out how many pins are in one of those complicated hair styles, and was told that Jade's from tonight's show had about 20. The stylists also use dental bands, tiny elastics that are usually clear, to fasten the pins into. These have to be cut out after the show though to avoid breaking the hair.

A chat with Katya

Katya told us that she genuinely loves every single dress she wears and that the designers on the show are incredibly talented. Everyone sits down at the start of the series to talk through what they like and don't like and the designers get things pretty spot on from there on in. "I like to cover my midriff and expose my legs" says Katya. When it comes to the hair Katya reckons having her hair up "makes a nice change" from wearing it down, which she tends to do most days.

The right hair style is important for a dancer's confidence too. "The last thing you want when you're dancing is to feel your hair moving, these guys are really good" Katya told us. I asked Katya if it was nice being able to try out all these products while on the show and she said "I'm making a list of all the things I want to get... I've been dancing since I was a kid... my mum used to do my make-up for shows... when I look back at the old show videos it's horrible." Her crime? Dark brown lip liner and pale lipstick, and I was sure to tell her she wasn't the only one who thought that looked good back in the day.

Katya admits it's sometimes hard to visualise everything coming together sometimes "I'm the worst" she says, "when I see my costume with no crystals or anything, I've got no imagination" but of course it all comes together in the end.

Hair accessories

Often celebs and dancers will have an accessory of some sort in their hair. These come from several brands. Most of the sparkly stuff is from Shefaly, and I look around and see boxes of these glittering beauties from slides, clips and hairbands to smaller twist-in jewels. Ali had some of these added to her hair while we were there. Other more fashion-led accessories are sourced from Topshop and Accessorize. This, we're told, is new for this series of Strictly as in the past they've just stuck with more of the classic styles.

Occasionally something a little different is required, and that's when the creativity of the hair stylists really steps up. For today's episode Mark made Natalie a hair bow which Claudia Winkleman mentioned after her performance. I got to see it close up and it really did just look perfect with her hair style.

It's hair design

Although the stylists take inspiration from photographs and magazines, this is really about designing a hair style. Generally they try to make sure that there are a variety of styles in any one show, and also to vary the styles on any one person throughout the series. Occasionally they can get away with the same style, but usually this will be on a blonde and a brunette. The same style can look completely different on each, with the detail of the style being much more visible on blonde hair.

The team find out about the dress usually on a Thursday which gives them only a couple of days to brainstorm and come up with an idea. Photos really help them get across their ideas as it's often quite hard to explain a style that someone hasn't seen before. It's a collaboration with the individual about what they'd like but at times the stylist takes control and has to do some convincing. Laila for example prefers her hair down and Aliona likes hers down and wavy, but that wouldn't work for a Foxtrot. For a dance like the Paso Doble or Tango, the hair is part of a character that the dancer has to play, it's a really important aspect of the story.

Practicality too

Sometimes a dancer can't have everything she wants. The most common case is the flowing locks V lip gloss scenario, and from what we hear the hair usually wins. It's a much harder thing to change the whole hair style than take off some lip gloss. Occasionally though hair does have to be restyled very quickly, particularly when a pro dancer has more than one dance to perform in different styles.

I asked about the condition of the hair, but the stylists stress that the girls' hair isn't going through much extra stress when you compare it to anyone who uses their hair straighteners every day. Katya mentions that she often uses a conditioning treatment 'it's like food for my hair' she said. And what about fine hair? The girls suggest going for an up-do rather than your hair down. On the show, someone with fine hair usually gets clip-in hair pieces if wearing their hair down.

My afternoon behind the scenes

I had a great afternoon chatting and seeing what went on behind the scenes. Everyone was really friendly and willing to tell us about their experiences - Eastenders' Ricky Groves jokingly tried to convince me that I'd be sent out through the gift shop and forced to buy a BBC bookmark which thankfully wasn't the case, and getting to see the celebs' costumes in the flesh was definitely a highlight too. A big thanks to the BBC for letting us come down and take a look around.
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