Ballet as a message of hope

An evening of pure enchantment awaited us at the Solaire Theater on May 28. Malen Claravall, the guiding spirit of the Claravall School of Dance in Parañaque and the British School of Manila presented “Snow White and Other Dances”, the former being the full-length story long known to most everyone, but delightfully delivered with a twist. The theme of Snow White in this version was “There is always something good in each one of us”.

The evening was a “feel good” time, as Malen wanted to emphasize the value that there is good in everyone. She deplores that in today’s world, there is so much preoccupation with what is evil, what is wrong with society, what corrupted values rule our modern lives, and in her own way, through dance, she prefers to resonate the thought that goodness is in the heart of everyone. And indeed, in Snow White, the surprise ending showed us that the evil, jealous queen who wanted to kill Snow White, received a shower of blessing that turned her around to become a loving stepmother. What could be a more inspiring lesson to children, and even adults, to realize that even the most evil person, with the grace of God, can become the better self that he or she is, having been made in the likeness and image of God?

Malen began her School of Dance 32 years ago, with the aim of promoting three basic values—dedication, discipline and love for the art since its very inception. Since then, it has made great strides in training and honing accomplished Filipino ballet dancers and teachers. In her inimitable way, Malen reaches out to her students, bringing out in him or her what is in their hearts that they can convey through their graceful movement. “Art”,  she says, “is a talent, a gift, which is God-given and should be drawn out and nurtured”.

Fifteen years ago, the Claravall School of Dance teamed up with British School Manila (BSM). BSM has Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) education on campus. It adheres and conforms to the strict standards and discipline of the RAD, London. It sends its students to take the  RAD examinations regularly conducted by representative from RAD, London.  Successful students are awarded RAD certificates, which enable them to be recognized in over 100 countries.

Among Malen’s successful students is Kim Abrogena, who started under Malen’s tutelage at the age of 8. She has passed all major levels of dance in RAD, and represented the Philippines as a semifinalist in the Genee International Ballet Competition in New Zealand. Last November she became the highest prize awardee among all the female competitors in the Senior Division.

As mentioned, there were “Other Dances”, which comprised the first part of the evening’s performance. And this gave vent to the “cast of thousands” that was revealed when all the dancers came to the stage to bow at the end of the final act of Snow White. I found it most endearing that this cast of thousands included the really little beginners from both schools.  For indeed, what could be more rewarding to the little dancers than to be part of a big performance, giving them the inspiration and incentive to nurture their art.

Malen is one person who is grateful for all the blessings that the Lord had given her:  supportive parents; student who have grown in the love of ballet and have become soloists and members of professional ballet dance companies; and the grace to make a difference not just in the art but also in fostering values that truly prove that goodness, and not evil, is in our midst.

Malen, a very dear friend and fellow-Theresian, is a soul-mate—a Theresian through and through. I guess that’s how we bonded with each other from the moment we met and discovered we were both proud Theresians. I wish her all the luck and love as she continues to create beauty in the world of dance.



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