Marilinda “Malen” Claravall is a simple and unassuming woman, full of joy and energy, and a passion for dance. I had to coax her into allowing me to write about her for her forthcoming ballet concert, “Snow White and Other Dances,” at the Theater at Solaire on May 28, for which she has asked seat sponsorship for orphans, the elderly, special children and PWDs.
This concert marks her 15th year at the British School Manila and 32 years of the Claravall School of Dance Parañaque.
I met Malen at a birthday celebration of a common friend and schoolmate from St. Theresa’s College, where she had choreographed a presentation.
Traditional education in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s emphasized math, science and reading, while arts and crafts were only secondary subjects. In contrast, Malen’s parents supported her love for the arts, so at age 4, she started learning ballet and piano.
Malen has been a ballet mentor almost all her life. She began when she was only 14 at her studio built by her parents at their residence, and as Felicitas “Tita” Radaic’s teaching assistant at St. Theresa’s College, Quezon City. She then taught at the Talayan Ballet School for seven years, at St. Scholastica’s College for 10 years and at the Mahatma Gandhi International School for a year.
Joji Felix Velarde and Sony Lopez Gonzalez, both students of the American Method of Ballet, were her mentors for the first eight years of her ballet training. The next three years were spent under Heather Mann-Llodra, who used the old Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) London syllabus. In 1967, Malen passed the RAD Elementary Examination given by Mr. John Marshall, the first given here and brought by Radaic.
The years 1971-1973 saw her as an apprentice of the Dance Theater Philippines, now Philippine Ballet Theater Inc. She has joined observation tours and study tours, and trained abroad to improve on her craft.
It was in 1974 that she officially set up the Claravall School of Dance in Quezon City, and in 1985 sent her first batch of students to take the RAD examinations, all of whom passed. It was that same year that Claravall School of Dance found its permanent home in Parañaque.
When Malen received the marriage proposal from her husband in 1976, her ballet dancing and teaching had to take a backseat. Her husband asked her to focus on their marriage and children; and Malen realized the wisdom of his request. Only after the birth of her third child, a girl, in 1984, did Malen find the reason to go back to dancing and teaching.
Malen is a RAD London registered teacher and a member of its International Team of Tutors Faculty of Education. As such, she has taught online the Freelance Dance Teacher Module to Asian students who aim for a Certificate of Ballet Teaching Studies and become future RAD teachers. She is a trustee, corporate legal secretary and active member of the Artistic Council of Philippine Ballet Theater Inc.
She continues to send her students to take the RAD examinations, with a 100 percent passing record—40 percent with Distinction and 60 percent with Merit.
“Teachers are born, not made,” Malen says. “You cannot be a true teacher if you cannot reach out to your student and understand what goes on inside and bring it out, as well as making him/her understand the message, the movement, the thought that you want to convey.”
The interesting thing, though, is that Malen is also a certified public accountant (CPA), and her corporate career is also one to reckon with. Financial manager
She started off as an audit clerk and ended up as the internal auditor of the Manila Banking Corporation; she was part of the team that prepared the bank’s audit manual and manual of operations. She moved to Philkraft Marketing Corporation as financial manager, and designed and implemented the company’s budgetary system.
Her last full-time corporate undertaking was with the Loyola Group of Companies, as senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Loyola Memorial Chapels and the Loyola Crematory Services. Here she was able to improve marketing and sales, resulting in P76 million in sales in 2000—more than double the P36 million marked in 1994.
Malen worked out P20 million in the company’s liabilities in five years, and is recognized as the person responsible for attaining ISO 9002 Certification for Service Excellence—the only company in the industry to achieve such a feat.
She has also been a partner at Inner Council Management Consultants and a lecturer for Thames International Business School.
Malen is a Who’s Who International Recipient (only one of five Filipinos) and a Grand Prix awardee for Managerial Excellence Actualidad in Madrid, Spain, proof of her achievements in her corporate career.
Malen has indeed achieved so much, despite being widowed quite early. She credits God’s grace and the unwavering support of her parents for helping her “weather all the storms in life.”
For example, in 2001, she decided to go into ballet full-time and quit her corporate career, so she did some pencil pushing and realized that she needed one more student to make a go of it. Her answered prayer was an offer to teach at the British School Manila.
Malen is in her element —creating her steps, working at her music, deciding on the backdrop. “It is grace under pressure and confidence that make students reach the heights of success,” she says. She has never forgotten what her father told her once: “Hitch your wagon to a star!”
Success is only achieved when one puts their heart and soul into every endeavor. Malen has made me proud to be a Theresian, proud to be her friend, and proud to share her achievements with the rest of the world. —CONTRIBUTED