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Joanna graduated from the City of Birmingham Polytechnic (now Birmingham City University) with a degree in Theatre Design.
Her first design job was with a Theatre in Education group run by the National Trust. They toured the country creating experiential shows for primary school children in NT properties. For the show to work effectively the characters had to look correct for the period of house in which each show was set, and this need for accuracy fired her interest in the history of dress.
Joanna became a freelance designer and maker of period costume, often collaborating with the choreographer Mary Collins – who she met through the YNTT.
In 2012 they wrote a joint paper for the Oxford Dance Symposium about the development of choreography through the 18th century, and how dance costume was affected by styles of dress. Through this work Joanna discovered that although the development of ballet in the 18th century has been widely examined, very little has been written about the costumes, which have such a key role to play in the overall look of the performance. She has always been interested in the relationship between the performers in live performance and their audience, that strong emotional, and yet intangible, connection that develops when watching an effective performance.
In the late 18th century there was a relationship between costume for performance and fashion, and this is evident from the various garments named after actresses or the parts that they played. There is scope for greater analysis of how the fashionable body shape dictated form for some costume, how female dancers pushed the boundaries of acceptable forms of dress, and how fashion was itself influenced by styles seen on the dance stage. Joanna’s research is examining that relationship.
After many years working for the theatre as a freelance costume designer and maker, most recently for practitioners of Renaissance and Baroque dance, Joanna is enjoying the chance to pass on her experience to the next generation of designers for performance.
Her work as a lecturer and academic has led to an increasing interest in the history of performance and how this gives context to what is seen on the stage today. This interest has developed into study for a PhD; combining her interests in costume for dance, design for performance, and the history of dress, through an examination of the late 18th century.
Society of British Theatre Designers
Society of Courses in Theatre Design
Studying for a PhD, entitled: “Fashion, Footwork & Fantasy.” The relationship between, costume for dance, fashion, and body image in the late 18th Century.
"Marie-Madeleine Guimard – Eighteenth century ballerina and early fashion icon.” Beauty3 conference, Oxford, September 2013
“Marie-Madeleine Guimard - Madonna or Material Girl? - A sad tale of Terpsichore” Costume Symposium, Oxford, April 2013
“Baskerville and the Baroque Stage” Baskerville society, Birmingham, April 2013
“The “Great Leap” - from Earth to Heaven” Costume society, London, October 2012, Costume Symposium, Oxford, April 2012