Born in Buffalo, New York, Joanne Zimmerman completed her professional ballet training at the Buffalo Ballet Center. She started her career with Niagara Frontier Ballet and then with the Royal Ballet of Flanders. After dancing with the Ballet van Vlaanderen in Antwerp for one season, she continued her career as soloist in 1972 with Het Nationale Ballet in Amsterdam and was promoted to principal dancer in 1985. She spent the next 20 years with the company, dancing major roles in a wide repertoire. She began her career as a teacher at the National Ballet Academy in Amsterdam, where she has been working for over 20 years.