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Baryshnikov Arts Center Chooses Dance Veteran as Leader

The pandemic brought a series of changes to the Baryshnikov Arts Center in Manhattan, forcing it to cancel two years of live performances and find new ways to connect with the public, including starting a streaming platform.

Now, as it looks to its next chapter, the center announced Friday it had chosen a new executive director: Sonja Kostich, a veteran arts administrator and dancer. She succeeds Cora Cahan, a dynamic figure in arts administration who has held the job since in 2019.

Kostich, who now serves as chief executive and artistic officer of Kaatsbaan, a cultural park in Tivoli, N.Y., said in an interview that she would focus on expanding audiences and attracting a wider variety of artists to the group’s residencies and other programs. She is expected to start in October.

“It should be an art center for everyone,” Kostich, 50, said. “I would love to see it become a place that everybody wants to be a part of, whether or not you’re a die-hard dance fan or someone who works in a completely different field.”

The center, with an annual operating budget of $3.5 million and more than a dozen staff members, was founded in 2005 by Mikhail Baryshnikov, the ballet star whose defection from the Soviet Union in 1974 stunned the dance world. He praised the choice of Kostich, saying she had the expertise to lead the center through the pandemic and beyond.

“I am honored that she will bring her talents to B.A.C. and am confident that her creative vision, financial savvy and love of the arts is precisely what B.A.C. needs to head into the future,” he said in a statement.

The center, which presents dance, music and other programming, resumed live performances only in March, later than many other performing arts groups, as it awaited a long-planned replacement of its heating, ventilation and cooling systems.

In 2020, when the coronavirus forced cultural institutions to suspend live performance, the center began a commissioning program focused on digital works as a way of sustaining the organization and encouraging artists to continue creating during the pandemic.

The fall season begins in October with a series of salon concerts. Among the performers are Owls, a string quartet, and the Westerlies, a brass quartet.

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