Materials relating to Joan Lawson's career as a dancer, teacher and writer including cuttings, promotional materials, teaching materials, book reviews, draft manuscripts, notes, a variety of published materials by various authors, contracts, correspondence, photographs and financial records.
Joan Lawson Archive
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Joan Lawson (born 30 Jan 1906, died 18 Feb 2002) was a British dancer, teacher and writer. The daughter of the Fleet Street journalist, Rob Lawson, Joan trained from the age of six with Margaret Morris with whom she performed as a child in the West End and then with Serafina Astafieva at the Pheasantry, Chelsea. She later studied in Moscow and Leningrad (Lawson was fluent in Russian and French) and became an expert on Soviet ballet. In 1922 she danced in Carl Rosa's Opera Company, in revues, most notably the touring version of Brighter London (1926-17) and with the Nemchinova-Dolin Ballet. She appeared as principal dancer in a number of pantomimes and formed the quartet of Joan Lawson Dancers who appeared in summer shows, revues and in conjunction with film screenings in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1934 she appeared in variety with 'Hepburn, Stewart and Lawson', described at South London Palace (11 Jun 1934) as 'Sensational Step and Adagio Dancers' and at the Chelsea Palace (2 Jul 1934) as 'Allegro Dancers'. Between 1935 and 1939 she arranged the dances for a series of pantomimes at the Palace Theatre, Plymouth. She later specialised in national and folk dance.
Lawson was a teacher at The Royal Ballet School, 1963/4 – 1971, specialising in the classical training of younger dancers, in mime and folk dance, and in the history of ballet. She regularly contributed to The Dancing Times (indeed anonymously contributed reviews to the 'Sitter Out') and was the author of several books including European Folk Dance (London, 1953), Mime: the theory and practice of expressive gesture with a description of its historical development (1957), Dressing for Ballet co-written with Peter Revitt (London, 1958), Classical Ballet: Its Style and Technique (London, 1960), A History of Ballet: Common Faults in Young Dancers (London, 1973), A History of Ballet and Its Makers (London, 1973) and Teaching Young Dancers: Muscular Coordination in Classical Ballet (New York, 1975) which examined how analysis of the dancer's anatomy is fundamental to ballet training. Lawson played an important role in the establishment of the National Dance Faculty of the ISTD and played an important role in the development of remedial work. Her interest in remedial dance and dance related injuries was awakened by Margaret Morris, which led her to participate actively in clinical diagnosis and treatment. She had a genuine ability to pin-point a dancer's faults and the root of problems and after her 'retirement' she helped many dancers return to the stage after injury. She also appeared on BBC Radio 3's 'Woman of Action' on 18 Dec 1976.
For further biographical details see 'Obituary Joan Lawson', Dancing Times, April 2002, pp. 24-25.
This collection is arranged as follows:
THM/251/1 - Materials relating to Joan Lawson's career as a dancer
THM/251/2 - Materials relating to Joan Lawson's career as a teacher
THM/251/3 - Materials relating to Joan Lawson's career as a writer
THM/251/4 - Soviet ballet materials
THM/251/5 - Correspondence
THM/251/6 - Published material by various authors
THM/251/7 - Photographs
THM/251/8 - Financial records
THM/251/9 - Greek dress collage
Conditions Governing Access
This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/
Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.
Given by Joan Lawson, 1998.
Photographs of Vera Nemchinova and Toni Lander and post card photographs of Olga Spessitseva and Astafieva have been seperated from the archive and can be found in the Department of Theatre and Performance collection of photographs of individuals.
Conditions Governing Use
Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/
This collection was appraised in line with collection management policy.
No further accruals are expected.