At a table in the City Café on Cathedral St. in downtown Baltimore, you
might walk by Piper Reid Hunt and notice her lively eyes or her long
strawberry-colored hair. You definitely couldn't miss her soulful
laughter. But you might not realize you have just passed a woman who
carries on a tradition of goddesses.
Hunt is a Renaissance woman of sorts. In May 2002 she will
receive her PhD from Johns Hopkins University. She has lived all over
the world and has a working first-hand knowledge of many foreign
cultures. But before all this, she was a bellydancer.
Picture her now as an audience might see her with those same
strawberry waves of hair flying through the air, long skirts sparkling and
swirling as she glides fluidly across the stage, hips swiveling in ways you
didn't know a woman could move, all with a sword balanced on her head. See the
goddess dancing now?
During her years as a professional bellydancer, Hunt
experienced a little bit of everything. She has done more than 12,000
performances and even won Bellydancer of the Year in 2000 at a contest in
California. Her story is rich in the memories of the music and the dance that
she loves that have been an integral part of her whole life.
"My professional career started at age 14," said
Hunt. "My mother hurt her knee and her boss said 'Let your daughter dance
for you.' I was panicked.
By the time her mother, bellydancer Rhea, recovered, Hunt
wasn't interested in stepping off stage. She did as many as five shows a night,
seven days a week, working regularly with live bands. Hunt's career started in
Greece, where she and her family had moved so that her mother could make a living as
a bellydancer. Hunt had few formal lessons. She grew up around the dance, so it
came naturally to her.
Hunt started dancing professionally in tourist clubs in
Athens. These establishments had stages and live Greek music. Before long, she
also danced at Arabic clubs.
"The music pulls you in. The Middle Eastern, Arabic
music - its so complex. And the audience at Middle Eastern clubs, it's their
dance, they know this dance. At a Greek or American club people clap at the
showy parts. But when you're doing a show for Egyptians, they pay attention,
they clap at the hard parts," she said.
Nowadays Hunt spends more time in a white lab coat at Johns
Hopkins than she does in her hip belt. She is about to earn her degree in human
genetics and molecular biology. Her main area of study focuses on trafficking to lyosomes, which has to do with how cells in the body get nutrients from one
place to another.
Still she finds time to teach two classes a week at Morton
Street Dance Center in Baltimore. "With my students, I really want them to
learn how to dance and how to carry themselves. I want them to be able to
project inner joy, which is the whole purpose of the dance," she said.
She will also be teaching and performing at the upcoming
Baltimore Bellydance Extravaganza and Gala show at the Baltimore Museum of Art
on July 13 and 14. The weekend will include introductory classes taught by
Hunt, her sister, Melina from Boston, her mother Rhea and other local Maryland
About Piper Reid Hunt: For more information about Piper's
weekly classes in Baltimore or the Bellydance Extravaganza and Gala show at the
BMA, call Piper at 410-733-0536 or visit her Website at www.daughtersofrhea.com