Eastern Michigan University

College of Arts and Sciences

Music & Dance

direct edit

Dr. Joanna McNamara

Dance / Dance Program Coordinator

318S Porter

734.487.7120 x2714



M.A. in Dance, Mills College

Ph.D. in Dance and Related Arts, Texas Women’s University

Courses Taught

  • Elementary Dance Composition
  • History of Dance 


Dr. Joanna McNamara, professor of dance at Eastern Michigan University, is a modern dance choreographer, dance filmmaker and scholar.  

Dr. McNamara's choreography has been presented in California, Texas, Michigan, and New Mexico, as well as in Italy and several different cities in Czechoslovakia, including Prague.  Her most recent dance film, For Diego, was recorded in the historic Diego Rivera Industry Murals Hall in the Detroit Institute of Arts.  The film, with music composed by EMU professor, Dr. Howard Cass, was presented at Carnegie Hall, New York City, in May 2014, as part of a live performance by the Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, of which Dr. Cass is pianist and composer.  It was also presented at the Hyonok Kim International Dance Film Festival in South Korea, in May 2015.  Her current film-in-progress, Detroit Redux, was recorded in five locations in Detroit, and is planned for presentation at Carnegie Hall in May 2016. 

McNamara is a published scholar with works appearing in Ann Daly's Critical Gestures:  Collected Writings on Dance and Culture and in Researching Dance:  Evolving Modes of Inquiry.  She has delivered papers at Congress on Research and Dance, National Dance Education Organization, Popular Culture and American Culture Association, and the American Association for Interdisciplinary Studies.  Her paper examining permutations in the Rite of Spring was selected for presentation at the combined conference of Congress on Research in Dance and Society of Dance History Scholars in Paris, France. She has served as a freelance dance writer for the Detroit Metro Times and has been a periodic dance critic for the Ann Arbor News. 

Dr. McNamara’s early training included work with Gus Solomons, Donald Byrd, Mia Slavinska, Bella Lewitsky, and Aaron Osborne.  She has performed with a variety of choreographers and companies including the TWU Tour Ensemble, Tance Johnson, Jill Klenota, and in the reconstruction of Doris Humphrey's Passacaglia with the Utah Repertory Dance Theatre.  Dr. McNamara serves on the Advisory Board for the University Musical Society, Ann Arbor, and regularly participates in fundraising activities that benefit education programs for children. She holds a Ph.D. in Dance and Related Arts from Texas Women’s University, an MA in Dance from Mills College and a BA from the University of California Santa Cruz.  She is certified in beginning and intermediate Labanotation and is also a certified Pilates instructor. 

The School of Music & Dance is part of the College of Arts & Sciences, 214 Pray-Harrold, 734.487.4344 • Faculty Resources