Sonjé Mayo was born in South Africa in 1945. At barely four years old, she went to her first classical ballet class and never looked back!
After certifying as a physical therapist at the University of Cape Town, her career as a professional dancer took her to London, England, and then to the USA where she studied jazz dance initially with Luigi and then contemporary dance at the Martha Graham School in NYC. It was here at the Graham School where Sonjé had the privilege of meeting Joseph Pilates. The few Pilates sessions she had with Joseph Pilates, and later with Romana Kryzanowska proved to have a profound influence on Sonje’s future.
During the four years in NYC, Sonjé gained experience in a variety of dance styles on many TV shows, commercials and in theatre productions. Although ballet was always her first love, Sonjé set her sights on becoming a contemporary dancer mainly because of the interesting and challenging choreography that was emerging in the 60’s and 70’s. She danced with the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and this experience in particular inspired her to return to South Africa and impart her knowledge.
On her return to South Africa in 1972, Sonjé started her quest to pioneer modern dance in her country. She formed the first multi-racial modern dance company in the history of South Africa, JAZZART, which is still in existence in Cape Town.
She has won many choreographic awards in South Africa, including the coveted Vita Award twice. Her international awards include the Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland, the Isola de Capri in Italy and the Concours de Dance in Paris, France.
Sonjé represented South Africa at many international dance festivals worldwide, including the International Dance Festival in Stuttgart , Germany, and the Commonwealth Arts Festival in Victoria Island, Canada. Her unique style of blending contemporary dance with African dynamics, became her trademark. During the 70’s and 80’s Sonjé’s protest choreography brought the plight of Apartheid to the audiences in and out of South Africa.
Amongst her many achievements in SA, she introduced contemporary dance at the Johannesburg Art School, the most prominent school for the performing arts. She also pioneered the first ever Diploma Course in Dance at the Pretoria Technikon.
Sonjé returned to the USA in 1995 and settled in Nashville where her husband, a radiologist, was offered a post at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She taught and choreographed for the Tennessee Dance Theatre and the Nashville Ballet company and started her own dance company, Évolution Dance. Her collaboration with top musicians in ‘Music City’ was met with great acclaim.
In 2003 Sonjé retired from the dance world and inevitably returned to Pilates on a full time basis. She obtained the Mat certification with Power Pilates in NYC in 2004. In 2006 she commenced her equipment certification with Peak Pilates. In October 2007 she obtained the Peak Pilates Professional Certification and then the Peak Comprehensive Certification in June 2008. Sonje is grateful for Alicia Gottlieb’s wonderful teaching which rekindled her passion for Pilates.
Sonjé runs her own studio, The Pilates Atelier, in Nashville, where she has been teaching for 16 years.
As a physical therapist and an experienced teacher and dancer of 45 years, Sonjé has become known for her rehabilitative expertise as a Pilates instructor. Dancers and athletes with injuries are recommended to her by the medical fraternity and other Pilates teachers in Nashville.
Sonjé’s new interest is the Schroth method for treating Scoliosis. As a PT she has been certified in the Schroth Best Practice Method by Dr Weiss from Gensingen, Germany, who is the grandson of Katharina Schroth, the pioneer of the famous Schroth method.
In April 2016, Sonje completed the Advanced Schroth Best Practice course with Dr Moramarco in Woburn, MA.
Sonje features extensively on Pilatesology.com which has put her skills on the Pilates world stage. She teaches many workshops internationally and in the USA.