Chris Van Raalte (born in 1946) was educated at Mount Hermon School. Upon graduation in 1964, he received an English Speaking Union Scolorship and attended Bryanston School in Dorset, UK. He then attended Middlebury college and graduated in 1969 with a BA in Biology. The following year he was accepted into the newly established Boston University Marine Program. Being 1970, and having a low draft number, he was soon called up to serve in the army. His strong anti war values led him to serve as Concientious Objector for two years in a small hospital in Hyannis, Massachusetts.
During this period, Mr. Van Raalte started studying ballet as a way to keep fit. Dance soon became a passion which he continues to practice to this day. Upon completion of his Alternative Service, he spent the next two years at the Marine Biological Laboratory (in Woods Hole, MA) where he ran a small research project studying the recovery of a salt marsh from an oil spill.
In 1975 he was accepted into the graduate Marine Biology Program at Dalhousie, University in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and received his masters degree in 1980. While living in Halifax, he became deeply involved in the nacient dance scene there. He started to teach folk dance classes and ballet; and studied modern dance and improvisation with Sarah Shelton Mann.
By the time he moved back to The USA to Northampton, MA, he was having serious thoughts about changing his career path from Biology to Dance. Northampton and the Five College area was a particularly fertile place to have landed. Within a year, he was taking classes at many of the colleges there. He started teaching ballet, performing in local productions and ultimately became a member of Dance Gallery, a local professional modern dance company. By the time he finished writing his Biology Masters thesis, he had decided to switch careers, and study Dance full time.
In 1980, he matriculated into the graduate Dance program at Smith College in Nothampton, MA. with a teaching fellowship. Ironically, it was on the same weekend that he defended his Biology Masters in Halifax. His earlier background in biology was usefull in his graduate level kinesiology courses where he first became aquainteed with electromyography. Upon completion of the Dance program, he remained in the area performing with Dance Gallery (on one occasion at Jacobs Pillow) as well as teaching and choreographing his own material.
In 1983 he moved to San Francisco where he studied jazz with Deidre Shibano. He taught jazz dance at Third Wave Dance House and other venues for 10 years and helped produce and dance in numerous concerts that included original choreographic works of his own and other collegues. During the late 1990's at Third Wave, he was part of a cyber duo called The Cyber Beat Brothers. Using two seperate devices, the duo performed dance and lyrics exclusively to the music produced by their BodySynths.
He first began to nurse the idea of the BodySynth in 1986 after bieng inspired by an EMG exhibit at the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum in San Francisco. His notes from then outlined improvements he felt would improve the exhibit. Within a year, the idea had morphed into The BodySynth as a performance tool. He quickly developed a primative prototype; and four years later, in 1991, made his first public performance at CyberArts in Pasedena CA.