Dancing Fingers

Her fingers fly, dance. The movement is neither rushed nor hurried. There is ease and focus in her quickness. Good cutters often work this way. Her energy is buoyant, Peter Pan like, yet centered, positive, fun and very contagious. Meet Janice Hylton. She along with partner Bonnie Hundt are the owners of Hylton Hundt Salon in Millerton.

Janice grew up in Georgia. Bonnie was born in Wisconsin, then moved to California. They met up in New York. Ironically, each of these women got into the hair cutting business, as Janice says, "By a divinely guided accident."

Bonnie was in California looking for a new direction in her life when a friend mentioned a course being offered in hair cutting, she said, "Okay," and a career was born. One of her classmates, by the way, was Karen Johnson. Karen later gave up hair styling and changed her name to Whoopee Goldberg.

Janice studied ballet and after college, moved to New York, where she pursued dance, leaning toward the Martha Graham style. After several years she felt the need for a practical skill, something dancers and athletes must consider as the age of thirty-five approaches. Coincidentally, a friend mentioned a course being offered in hair cutting, Janice said, "Okay." She discovered that cutting hair suited her. "I like using my brain and my hands together to create," she says unconsciously taking on a dance pose. She likes the problem solving aspect of cutting, what works, what doesn't, the line, shape of the face, texture. "Bonnie's the artist, I'm more of a technician," she compliments.

When Bonnie arrived in New York from California, she trained at the Vidal Sassoon Salon, where her craft became her art. "Sassoon defined contemporary cutting," Janice explains. "Working with the most talented people you can find and learning from them is imperative."

For fifteen years Janice worked at various salons on Manhattan's upper west side. Bonnie worked on the east side. One day they met. Both had longed to spend more time in the country and soon took the leap, opening a salon in Millerton. That was ten years ago. Four years ago they moved to their present location, personally designing the salon from top to bottom. There's even a spa upstairs, offering massage, manicure, pedicure and facials. The salon is a reflection of their personalities, bright, happy and warm. For some time Janice and Bonnie kept clients in the city and often traveled to New York. Now situated full time in Millerton, many of those clients travel here.

Hair coloring has become a special love to Janice. Knowing little about coloring, but assuming it difficult, I ask how she got into it.

"Trial by fire," she answers, "I was thrown into it years ago at a salon in the city. You have to learn fast, there's little room for error. When it comes to coloring hair, people either love it or hate it, there's no in between, so you've got to be good."

"What about working with the chemicals?"

"Not a problem today, the products and the companies are great."

I mention henna.

"Now that's a potential problem, because henna is a plant." She explains that a lot of countries where henna is grown still use dangerous pesticides on their plants. You have to exercise caution and wisdom with henna, knowing where and how it's grown, otherwise the results could be unpleasant, both for the stylist and the client.

I find when I talk with people who love what they do, who love their chosen life's work, passion invariably seeps from their pores. Janice and Bonnie are no exception. They decided on the location for their salon during a spring evening visit. They walked to the pond out back. "It was so peaceful, we just knew we had to be here," Janice smiles recalling that evening.

"Do you miss dancing?" I ask.

She hesitates, "I'm very athletic, active, I run. Maybe one day I'll dance again, when I have more time."

In the mirror I watch her fingers dancing with my hair. I smile. She dances still.

We'll talk next time From The Road.

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