Sonja Dragomanovic Haydar

At the age of eight, a Yugoslavian girl began ballet lessons with Mia Slavenska. Madame Slavenska was formerly of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the premier European ballet company. Later Sonja’s training continued at the Zagreb Opera House in Yugoslavia, now Croatia. There she studied, not only ballet and pointe, but the different ethnic dances of her culture.

She earned degrees from the Masters’ School of Dance in Berlin and the Conservatory of Music, Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. She danced professionally at sixteen, and became prima ballerina and choreographer for the Salsburg Opera and later, the State Opera of Dresden. Sonja, the child, became Sonja Dragomanovic, ballerina. In Sonja’s solo concerts, she mixed her classical pointe pieces with charming character dances, including The Fire Dance by de Falla, The Little Mermaid, and numerous ethnic dances of her country.

Sonja came to the United States following WWII. She began teaching ballet in Washington D. C. She became the ballet mistress at the inception of the National Ballet of Washington where Frederic Franklin, formerly of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, was director. An expert in classical ballet and its related art forms, Sonja also lived and worked in Asia and Africa where she researched and filmed the elusive Pygmie tribes in eastern Zaire.

In 1968, Sonja began a new career at Mary Washington College as professor of dance and graced its dance program for twenty-one years. Upon her retirement in 1989, the college named her Professor Emerita. Mary Washington College, now the University of Mary Washington, long benefited from Sonja’s teaching, choreography, and sparkling influence on the college community. She was mentor to many aspiring dancers and choreographers. After her retirement, she continued to pursue her beloved work as artistic advisor/choreographer for Avery Ballet in Fredericksburg.

Sonja continued to live in Fredericksburg until her death in 2005.
(sources: interview with Gail Conway in 1993 and Avery Ballet program notes)


Claudia Moore Read

In 1934, Claudia Moore Read graduated from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro with a degree in physical education. In her first teaching position at the University of Nebraska, she was to teach modern dance. “Having only danced with scarves,” she felt inadequate. However, this feeling faded after she attended Bennington College’s summer sessions in dance.  In the 1930s, Bennington College, Vermont, was the Mecca for the greats of American modern dance. There, Claudia, the physical education major, transformed into Claudia, the student of Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, Martha Graham, and Jose Limon. She continued as a student with the Humphrey-Weidman Dance Studio in New York City and at the Bennington School of Dance. She joined the Humphrey-Weidman Repertory Company and demonstrated and taught for Charles Weidman at Bennington and at his New York studio.

At the very center of the revolutionary dance movement of the 1930s, Claudia learned from and performed with the masters. She continued her academic education, receiving her master’s degree from New York University. She continued her dance career by teaching at the State Teachers College-Wisconsin and at the University of Colorado before coming to Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia in 1945. Here she taught, choreographed, and invited companies like Humphrey-Weidman and Martha Graham to perform in Dodd Auditorium.

She was instrumental in beginning a dance major at the college within the Department of Health and Physical Education and was the founder of the Mary Washington College Dance Group. She has been honored in Who’s Who of American Women and Personalities of the South.

Claudia Moore Read retired in 1975, and President Woodard honored her as Professor Emerita for her contributions of excellence to the college. Claudia and her husband resided in Fredericksburg. She died in 2002.

(source: interview with Gail Conway in 1993)

Inaugural Scholarship Recipients
1993-1994 Jennifer McNure, Gina Hernandez, Jennifer Green
1994-1995 Alison Knuth, Jennifer Green

Recipients of the Claudia Moore Read Dance Scholarship or the Sonja Dragomanovic Haydar Dance Scholarship are dancers who have contributed the most in keeping dance alive at the University of Mary Washington. In addition to demonstrating academic excellence and financial need, these students will have contributed to the Performing Arts Club and the community at large. The students who receive the scholarships will also be accomplished dancers on stage, good choreographers, and have demonstrated a desire to use dance in their future pursuits. Scholarships recipients are selected by a small committee from Friends of Dance with consultation with the dance teachers at the University.

Claudia Moore Read Scholarship
1995-1996 Heather Spring
1996-1997 Darcy Hart Parker, Angela Risser
1997-1998 Emily Shanaberger deFiesta
1998-1999 Dara Zitzmann
1999-2000 Sarah Pack Fischer
2000-2001 Katie Jantzi
2001-2002 Damion Bond
2002-2003 Erin Weimert
2003-2004 Kimberly Pittman
2004-2005 Susanne Mirabello
2005-2006 Jessica Polledri, Anna Synnestvedt
2006-2007 Renee Dalrymple
2007-2008 Amanda Schlener, Kelley Walsh
2008-2009 Jullian Guido
2009-2010 Jane Ballard
2010-2011 Sarah Sanders
2011-2012 Amanda Johnson, Jamia Jordan
Sonja Dragomanovic Haydar Scholarship
1995-1996 Not awarded
1996-1997 Not awarded
1997-1998 Robyn Oliver Hedges
1998-1999 Andrea Schmidt Miller
1999-2000 Sarah Lyon
2000-2001 Laura Keyser
2001-2002 Suzanne Lewis
2002-2003 Kellie Shanahan
2003-2004 Elizabeth Randall, Christina Coleman
2004-2005 Renee Dalrymple
2005-2006 Elizabeth Grace Randall
2006-2007 Jennifer Moore
2007-2008 Krista Dray
2008-2009 Kristin Gauta
2009-2010 Emily Sack
2010-2011 Rebecca Lallande
2011-2012 Kate Miller, Amy Newcomb