Sonjé Mayo was born in South Africa in 1945. After certifying as a physical therapist at the University of Cape Town, her career as a professional dancer took her to the USA in 1965 where she studied jazz dance initially with Luigi and then contemporary dance at the Martha Graham School. Ms. Graham insisted her students take class with Joseph Pilates and Sonjé followed her advice. The many Pilates sessions she had with Joseph Pilates, his wife Clara and Romana Kryzanowska proved to have a profound influence on Sonjé’s future.
During the four years she spent working as a dancer in NYC, Sonjé danced with the Alvin Ailey Company and this experience in particular inspired her to return to South Africa to pioneer modern dance in her country. On her return to South Africa in 1972, Sonjé formed the first multi-racial modern dance company in the history of South Africa, JAZZART, which is still in existence in Cape Town.
Sonje’s unique style of blending contemporary dance with African dynamics, became her trademark and led to worldwide acclaim for JAZZART. During the 70’s and 80’s Sonjé’s protest choreography brought the plight of Apartheid to audiences in and out of South Africa.
Sonjé returned to the USA in 1995 and settled in Nashville where her husband was offered a post at Vanderbilt University. In 2003 she retired from dance and returned to Pilates on a full time basis. Sonjé runs her own studio, The Pilates Atelier, in Nashville, where she has been teaching for 10 years.