A small cremation service has been arranged for 2nd February 2021 at West Norwood Cemetery and Crematorium. Family flowers only, but should you wish, please make a donation to the NSPCC or the Royal Ballet School. In the current circumstances, the numbers permitted to attend are very restricted, but her sons Tim and Mark will try to organise a meeting of friends and relatives to celebrate Joan’s life at a later date. The Ballet Association will celebrate Joan’s life at an appropriate event in late 2021.
Our Royal Ballet School and Elmhurst Ballet School Awards are given annually in recognition of the contribution to dance of Sylvia Tyler and Joan Seaman through their founding and development of the Association. We attach a piece written by her sons as below.
Joan Seaman 1923 -2021
Joan Margaret SEAMAN (née ALLAN) was born on 10 February 1923. In the early 1930s her parents, John and Harriet, moved the family, now including Joan’s younger brother, Jack, to Pinner in Middlesex. It was a loving, relatively affluent childhood that was only marred by a couple of serious illnesses to her mother. Joan showed an early and prodigious talent for the piano and she later studied at the London School of Music. She took part in a wide variety of the performing arts while attending Harrow Art College but her ultimate career – pianist, fashion/art designer, etc. – was put on hold when she enlisted in 1942 in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). She was posted to Fighter Command HQ at Bentley Priory in Middlesex. This proved most congenial as it allowed her to live at home and also when off-duty allowed her to travel to London where she became a committed ‘balletomane’. She was immensely proud of the complex and important work that she and her fellow WAAF ‘plotters’ achieved – a feeling that she was still expressing in the final weeks of her life. After the war, she travelled Europe entertaining the troops playing the piano in several RAF jazz and dance bands.
Shortly after her demobilisation Joan met Alan ‘Bill’ Seaman, an RAF officer. They became engaged, married in Pinner in 1950 and set up home in Turney Road, West Dulwich where they remained in residence for the rest of their lives. In 1951, a son, Tim, arrived following in 1954 by Mark. The family became firm members of the West Dulwich community – St Barnabas Church, Dulwich Hamlet infant and primary schools and, finally, Dulwich College. The family was rocked to its core in February 1975 when Bill died of a heart attack at home. By this time Joan had undergone Teaching Training and was employed at Loughborough Infants School where she remained until retirement in the late ‘80s. After finishing teaching, she continued to pursue her intellectual and academic pursuits, securing a History degree from the Open University.
In 1981 Tim married Lynne and the family was joined by her daughter, Suzie, while their son Alexander arrived in 1982. Joan quickly became “Baba”. She was a marvellous grandmother and dedicated herself to both grandchildren, supporting their education and exposing them to a wide range of the arts, notably drama with Suzie and art with Alexander. She shared several enjoyable holidays on the Isle of Wight with her grandson. She was a confidante of both her grandchildren till the end.
This gallop through Joan’s domestic and professional life omits a part of her life that was, in many ways, as fulfilling to her as was her commitment to her family. During the war years she developed a great enthusiasm for ballet and her passion for the art and, in particular, the Royal Ballet became a major and enduring part of her life. Her husband willingly babysat while she visited Covent Garden and, following his untimely death, she possessed a loyal and supportive group of her own friends. The ballet world provided her with a second family into which she became fully immersed. She was a founder of the Ballet Association that supports the Royal Ballet in all its work while she engaged with the Company to such an extent that in her retirement, she joined it on tours of the United States, Mexico and Europe. She continued to attend performances at Covent Garden (facilitated by close friends and family) until, in the last few years, her immobility finally prevented this.
Joan Seaman was an intelligent, cultured and strong woman. Never short of an opinion – that she was always only too happy to share – she was also kind, loyal and supportive to her family, friends and pretty well anybody who crossed her path. In her daily life she rigorously applied the belief that you should ‘get on with it’ (an attitude that she ascribed to her own upbringing) and such a ‘can do’ outlook was one of the important legacies that she and her husband passed on to their family.
Tim and Mark Seaman, Sons of Joan Seaman