While the word “chromatic” usually refers to a variety of colors or a musical scale, two Yale alumni are applying the word to the dance world.

With its first classes set to begin in November, Chromatic Dance — a New York-based dance startup founded by Claire Zhang ’15 and Maria Ratskevich ’15 last academic year — is tentatively preparing to launch a Kickstarter campaign on Sept. 23 to raise money to rent a studio space and pay instructors. Zhang said the company seeks to make dance, an art form that she believes is transformative and empowering, accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds.

“We thought about doing a dance startup with our mission of bringing dance to everybody and marketing to people who haven’t thought about doing dance before,” Ratskevich said. “That kind of thing didn’t really exist, particularly in New York where we were looking.”

Zhang explained that the studio groups its dance classes based on unconventional musical categories, offering courses named after song titles and artists rather than genres. She added that because classes will be less constrained by individual styles, they can be more focused on teaching the art of movement in general. Zhang noted that this would allow more freedom on the part of the instructor.

As of last night, the group has already enlisted three instructors and is in the process of recruiting more. Brooke Naylor, a choreographer for the group, said that while she graduated from the Fordham Ailey School of Dance, a mostly modern program, she has been trained in a number of genres. Having been a dancer for the Steps on Broadway dance company, Naylor said she has also helped the group reach out to other potential teachers in the professional world.

“My style is very energetic, so that’s what I would like my classes to be like,” Naylor said. “I want it to be something people use to get a good workout, almost cardio in a way, and learn some fun dance moves.”

Chromatic Dance’s founders laid out much of the groundwork — including construction of the website and the making of advertisements — for their startup over the summer. David Handsman ’15, the company’s graphic designer, said he, along with Zhang and Ratskevich, chose to remain in New Haven over the summer to work on the logistics of the group.

In June, the group went to the Pridefest Festival in New York City to advertise their company. Ratskevich noted that all of their networking efforts in fundraising for the company double as publicity, because the people in such networks may be potential customers or may encourage others to sign up for classes.

“Chromatic Dance is about inclusivity, letting all people try dance if they haven’t tried before, so what we wanted to do was have a brand that is friendly,” Handsman said. “You don’t want to see it and think it looks too professional or maybe you have some associations with studios that you think are high class or pretentious.”

With this goal in mind, Zhang said the group spent the majority of their time working on building brand recognition, from carefully phrasing their website’s descriptions to designing its aesthetic features. Handsman noted one of their main objectives was to make the company seem “down to earth,” which led them to select a four-color scheme.

Zhang and Ratskevich said the inspiration for the group came from their experiences as co-presidents of the Yale undergraduate dance ensemble Danceworks. With no audition process, Danceworks is Yale’s largest undergraduate dance organization. Zhang said that while she was shy and insecure during her freshman year at Yale, joining Danceworks helped her to gain a sense of self-confidence.

“The confidence you get in performing transfers into a lot of other things in life,” Ratskevich said.


Correction, Sept. 10: A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated that Chromatic Dance’s Kickstarter campaign would launch on Sept. 16. It also indicated that the Pridefest Festival took place in July, rather than June.