Sitting in the audience as the lights slowly dimmed and the theater curtain parted is one of Sonja Kostich’s favorite childhood memories. “Anything was possible at that moment,” says Kostich (’15) of those early, formative trips to the symphony, ballet, and theater with her arts-loving parents. Anything, indeed.
Today the South Korean–born and Minneapolis-raised Kostich, who started studying dance at age 3, looks back on an impressive, varied 25-year professional career that includes dancing with the American Ballet Theater (ABT), San Francisco Ballet, and Zurich Ballet; performing a range of styles (classical, neoclassical, contemporary, and postmodern); and co-founding and co-directing her own modern dance company, OtherShore. What’s more amazing is that she sees these accomplishments from the vantage point of a new career as an analyst in the Controller’s Department of the Finance Division of Goldman Sachs.
Kostich isn’t sure that becoming a professional dancer was “ever a conscious decision.” Even so, she began seriously studying dance at age 9 and moved to New York City at 15 to study at the School of American Ballet (affiliated with the New York City Ballet). “I wasn’t fully aware of what becoming ‘professional’ meant,” she explains.
Kostich didn’t have to wait long to find out. Within a year, she and her roommate auditioned for Mikhail Baryshnikov, scouting for his new ballet school. Neither hoped for anything more than being in their idol’s presence, especially Kostich, who had an injury, later diagnosed as a broken foot. Broken foot or big break? Kostich was one of only seven girls chosen and the following year was offered a contract with the ABT. She was 17 and a high school senior.
Of dancing, she says, “It isn’t all glamour; it’s a job. It boils down to being diligent, working all day and all night doing the same thing over and over—perfecting it.”
That dancer’s diligence, attention to detail, and stamina were to come in handy for her professional second act, sparked when Kostich and a fellow veteran dancer founded a dance company. Kostich soon realized how valuable business training would be. At first she thought random classes might answer her needs but quickly realized she wanted a real foundation, a solid curriculum—in short, the college education she never had.
The nontraditional accounting undergrad more than embraced the challenge, graduating summa cum laude and class salutatorian. “The world of business and finance was a complete unknown to me when I was a dancer,” says Kostich. “At Baruch I discovered how fascinating finance, business, and accounting were. My education opened up a new world to me.”