Born in Zululand, Jo moved to Australia when she was five and lived in Perth. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 1993. Jo spent one term of her final year at University on exchange with the London Contemporary Dance School, and in 1994, her first year as a freelance dance artist, divided her time between three major projects. She worked with 2 Dance Plus as a dancer/teacher, choreographed the Murchison schools project, where she worked in collaboration with visual artists and seven schools to create a performing arts production entitled This Magic Earth. She also directed her own project Two Heads, which was an interplay between dance, film and text and performed as part of the Artrage Festival in Perth.
Joanna joined Tasdance in 1995 as trainee artistic director, which encompassed her role as dancer and liaison officer. During her time at Tasdance, Joanna coordinated 3 schools tours, the Tasmanian Poetry and Dance Festival, taught at the Tasmanian Dance School and created three new dance works, Bride, Lights Out, and Later. She also tutored at the University of Tasmania and performed in four main Tasdance seasons. Her last season with Tasdance was in the 1997 performances of Passion fruit.