Back in the 1940’s Joan Haworth performed on a number of occasions at the Manchester Hippodrome and the London Palladium. Then known as Joan Janssen (and sometimes referred to as ‘elegant elasticity’) she was a dancer, contortionist and circus performer who trained her body to get into some incredible positions. Joan went on to work in The Rexano’s with her future husband Bo Bo. Together they would enthral audiences with their comedy and contortionist double act.
Here Joan recalls her childhood memories of her first dance school and the trapeze her father installed in her bedroom…
‘It was the Cosmos Troupe, Calvert School of Dancing. The bus goes down Pollard Street now, and I look at it every time I pass. You can only just see it, but there’s a ring of bricks and there’s an opening. It used to be called the Roundhouse. We did charity concerts there.
As I pass it, I think of myself when I was ten. That costume, those baggy knickers! – I can see myself there every time I pass on the bus. It brings back memories. I was a bit of a tomboy. I wasn’t a dancer as much as I was strong. I was more an acrobat – a gymnast type – than a dancer.
But in this factory, not far from where I lived, my father had been an insurance superintendent. He knew a lot of people and this one gentleman was a gymnast – he was a factory worker and they had a gym in the factory, in their canteen. And it was through him that I started going with these lads in the canteen…they taught me quite a lot actually.
My father knew quite a few performers in the business – that old-time music hall scene. Tom Costello was a friend of his. He knew one or two people that were gymnastics, and he knew one gentleman – he was retired but had been in a trapeze family – and he just asked him could he give him an idea of what I could do.
So he got me a trapeze. I had a big bedroom! 18 feet high my bedroom was, in that very big house, and I learned how to do gymnastics on that!’
Joan is now 86 years old and still trains at least twice a week at the YMCA.