Dancer, choreographer, producer and teacher Chloe Keighly-Peach Scott died of heart failure at the age of ninety-four at her home in Lake Oswego, Oregon on September 9, 2019.
A native of England, Chloe began her dance training at age two and later continued with ballet study in Malta, where she performed as a child in the Royal Opera House, while her father, a captain in the Royal Navy was stationed there. While attending a boarding school in London, she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art from age nine to fourteen.
At fifteen, Chloe participated in the rescue of the British military in the retreat from Dunkirk during World War II, helping with the reception of the soldiers on the western side of the English Channel. Soon afterwards, she was sent to America to escape the dangers of the London bombing and a feared invasion, where she lived with a foster family in New York.
She married amateur naturalist Peter Scott when they were both nineteen. The following year, they took up residence alone together on the Audubon, a boat provided by the National Audubon Society, when Peter was hired to protect birds and other wildlife in Florida’s Everglades, an adventure related in her memoir The Walking Trees published in May of 2019.
After their time in the Everglades, the couple moved to New York, living for a time in East Hampton. In New York City, where the couple’s daughter Jennifer was born, she discovered modern dance, joining a dance company and choreographing at the 92nd Street Y.
In the late 1950s, then divorced, Chloe moved to Northern California with her daughter, studied experimental dance with Anna Halprin and taught dance to children and to adults, out of a firm conviction that “dance is for everyone, not just an elite few.” Her adult students including writers Richard Alpert, Stewart Brand, Ken Kesey (who had written One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest while living in the cottage next to hers on Perry Lane, the bohemian enclave described in Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Test), and Kentucky novelist Gurney Norman, to whom she was married during much of the 1970s.
Gurney Norman has written:
“Chloe helped literally thousands of people be healthier, happier, and wiser about the deeper meaning of life, to be better toward themselves and with each other in their bodies, minds, spirits. She placed us all in a living Mandala and had us move gracefully together. Many of her students just would not go away; for years they came to her studio to be renewed, revived, sustained in body, mind, spirit, soul.”
In his book Famous People I Have Known, author Ed McClanahan wrote this description of the scene on Perry Lane:
“Eventually the party would assemble itself somewhere, more than likely around the corner at Chloe Scott’s house, to take on victuals and cheap Chianti. Chloe is at all odds the most glamorous woman I’ve ever known. A professional dancer and dance teacher, red-headed and fiery, a real knock-out and a woman of the world, Chloe Keighly-Peach of the British gentry by birth, daughter of a captain in the Royal Navy, came to America, to New York, as a girl, during the Blitz, and had stayed on to become, in the early 1950s, part of Jackson Pollock’s notoriously high-spirited East Hampton social circle. Along the way she married a dashing young naturalist, and spent a year on the Audubon Society’s houseboat in the Everglades, fell briefly under the spell of a Reichian therapist and basted herself in an orgone box, and at last, divorced, made her way west to settle in as one of the reigning free spirits on Perry Lane. At Chloe’s, anything could happen.”
Chloe’s developing choreographic style grew to incorporate elements of tai chi, yoga, Indian and African dance, and Feldenkrais movements which she learned while studying the Feldenkrais Method with founder Moshe Feldenkrais. In the 1960s, she formed the Dymaxion Moving Company with her friends in the Palo Alto area. The many dance productions she choreographed with them included elaborate concerts on the occasions of her seventieth and eightieth birthdays, and her full-length evening production of The Way of the White Clouds, which she regarded as her magnum opus. Conceived and choreographed following her two-hundred-mile trek in Nepal at the age of fifty-six, the concert depicted a pilgrims’ Himalayan trek and the life of the spirit in their quest. The concert drew large audiences at two performances on the Stanford University campus in 1983.
Chloe continued to study Buddhism, following the leadership of the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Than, and led meditation groups. She also worked as a practitioner of Feldenkrais Method and trained many others in the US and abroad until she was well into her eighties.
In 2006, Chloe moved from California to Lake Oswego, Oregon to be with Jennifer and her family, but the Dymaxion Moving Company has continued to meet in California in fond recollection of its founder ever since, with many of its members visiting Chloe in Oregon during her final thirteen years.
In California and Oregon, Chloe joined writing groups, and authored numerous pieces in the Lake Oswego Review prior to the publication of The Walking Trees shortly before her death.
Chloe Keighly-Peach Scott is survived by her daughter Jennifer Scott Teton and Jennifer’s husband John Teton and their daughters Sage and Zoe of Portland, Oregon and their son Ben and his wife Toree, the parents of Chloe’s great-grandson Wylder of Felton, California; her brother Peter Keighly-Peach and his wife Dee of Norfolk, Virginia and their children David, Katie, and Tracey and her husband Tim Adams of Louisville, Kentucky; Peter Scott’s son Jonathan and his family of Provincetown, Massachusetts; many in-laws, nieces, and nephews in the Scott and Norman families; and her former husband Gurney Norman of Lexington, Kentucky.