Nancy Brock Beck died at the age of 98 on January 26, 2018, from causes related to Alzheimer’s disease. Nancy had been living at Paradise, an assisted living facility in Catonsville, Maryland, since 2013.
Nancy was born on April 4, 1919 outside of Lake Charles, Louisiana, to a military family. Her father, Arthur W. Brock, was ranked colonel on his retirement. Her mother, born Nancy Gibson, was originally from Magnolia, Mississippi.
Her childhood was marked with extensive travel and frequent moves both in the United States and in the Philippines. Following two years in Manila, Nancy and her mother traveled through China for six weeks when Nancy was 11, returning to the U.S. via Okinawa and San Francisco, and then to the East Coast via the Panama Canal. This instilled in Nancy a lifelong love of travel. She made many trips to Europe, and for her 70th birthday, a three- month dream trip to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
Nancy proved to be a gifted dancer when she took Denishawn classes from an o icer’s wife in Manila. This began her study of dance. Her first solo program was on April 4, 1934 – her 15
birthday—and included dancing Ted Shawn’s famous “Thunderbird” solo.
In the fall of 1935 she enrolled in Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve) and studied modern dance and ballet at the Cleveland Institute of Music. She taught dance at various settlement houses in Cleveland, and in the summers of 1936 and 1940 she attended Bennington College to take classes with Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Hanya Holm and Martha Graham.
In 1937, Nancy married the musicologist William S. Newman; they were divorced in 1947. Their son, Christopher, was born in 1943.
As a young mother, Nancy taught dance at the University of North Carolina, and after her divorce, at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), a historically black college in Hampton, Virginia. During her three years at Hampton, she led the dance group on tours in the segregated Southeast, performing at black colleges, churches and YM/YWCA’s. She then taught dance at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, from 1950 to 1960.
Nancy met her future husband Karl W. Beck, a German national, in 1952, when he visited Purdue on a tour sponsored by the US State Department. They were reunited in 1953 when Nancy and Christopher went to Germany so that Nancy could spend a sabbatical year studying dance with Mary Wigman. She distinguished herself there and was chosen to solo with the Mannheim Opera Company in a staging of the Handel oratorio “Saul” choreographed by Mary Wigman. Nancy and Karl were married in Mannheim in 1954. They had two boys: Peter was born in 1957 and Hanno in 1960.
The two became active in Quaker life. They started the Quaker Meeting in West Lafayette and also in Salem, Virginia, where Karl began teaching at Roanoke College after earning his PhD in psychology. While in Salem, Nancy created a solo program called “The Dance in Worship”, which she performed for many years at colleges, churches and Quaker institutions in Virginia and Maryland.
Karl Beck died from cancer in 1969; Nancy continued to teach dance; she performed “The Dance in Worship,” and formed a Sacred Dance trio. She taught movement to Quakers at conferences and weekend workshops at Pendle Hill and Powell House.
In late 1989 Nancy moved to Santa Rosa, to join Santa Rosa Creek Commons. She soon transferred her membership to Redwood Forest Friends Meeting. She returned to the East Coast in 2009 when she moved to the Friends House retirement community in Sandy Spring, Maryland.
Always positive and energetic, Nancy’s polite and smiling surface overlay a deep commitment to her art and to peace and social justice. Her commitment to learning never ended and ranged from Quakerism, psychoanalysis, yoga, Sensory Awareness and the Gurdjie work. Nancy Brock Beck is remembered with great love by her three sons and two granddaughters. Christopher livwa in Rotterdam in the Netherlands; Peter lives in Chicago and Hanno now lives outside of Bu alo, New York.
Gifts in Nancy’s memory may be made to the Fellowship of Reconciliation (www.forusa.org), which was dear to Nancy’s heart.