Breathing with Brook

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Author’s note: When Chris was at his sickest, a trusted friend of mine asked me if there was any part of the scripture I still believed to be true. I thought about it, and had to answer her honestly. “No.”

Another friend of mine encouraged me to write down any singular scrap of good that has come to me as a result of this catastrophe.  Jesus’ friend Paul assures us that all things work together for good, for those who love Him and who listen to his call, after all. 

That was a little easier. Here’s one. 

Breathing with Brook


Brook Metcalfe muttered under his breath.  I was in the middle of a very demanding and frustrating tango lesson, and had just settled into the proper position in my instructor’s arms. Tango with Brook was a very different experience than what I had learned with Chris, when we first started coaching together, over twenty years ago.

Communication in Amercian Smooth Dance is puzzling to a beginner like me. There are four dances in American Smooth.  My coach and I are spending a lot of time on three- Waltz, Viennese Waltz, and some American Tango. There is an enormous amount of back and forth that goes on as dancers become more advanced. All kinds of complicated vocabulary and requests are exchanged, by both the men and the women. All through 3 points of contact-the upper body, the hands, and the man’s hand on the ladies back.  It is very much like learning another language.

For me, this kind of dance  is a lot like tunnel flying. As I have described here before, sometimes it is just great to put yourself in a situation where you must empty your mind, and can’t think of anything else except what you are doing in the moment. Tunnel flying is a uniquely non-distracting experience. If I don’t concentrate utterly, I don’t make any progress. Not only that, I might get hurt!  Both of these are  truly undesirable outcomes.

Coaching with Brook is also a focusing experience. Not that Brook isn’t distracting.  In fact, Brook is an archetype. A mythical model of the perfect male that American women want, or at least say they do. Brook is accomplished and fit, his manners and dress are impeccable, his communication style is authoritative but generous and firm.  He is dominant without being domineering, and amenable, within boundaries.He always smells faintly of Armani, and is supremely comfortable in his own skin. Other people’s too, if my tumbling into him during tango is any indication.

And, unfortunately for me, Brook is also very funny. Distracting!

He drives a 1998 Mustang  and is a very much into cars. In the brief time we have coached together, I actually have made some progress. I now can get a glimpse of what an advanced couple might look like and to me the unity of purpose is energizing. To Brook, it’s like a well oiled machine. Gears, in fact!


When we start a number, sometimes I get the stance right from the beginning. Brook will sometimes say “Click!” and it is all I can do to keep from cracking up. Of course! It makes perfect sense from the masculine, mechanistic point of view. Two dancers fitting together correctly is a lot like an engine working properly, a beautiful thing, even poetic somehow.

When I tell people about this coaching experience, I often show them some of the performance pictures my coach has on his website. Inevitably at least one obnoxious question comes up, can you guess?

“So, is this guy straight, or what?”

Our perceptions of masculinity are so rigid sometimes.

I am much tempted to tell my friends to look at some of his performance videos. Chris and I were always intrigued by gender differences, whether they are inborn or nurtured. How fascinating is it to know someone like Brook,  who can wear masculinity like a jacket, to be altered at will.  Brook has the amazing ability to morph into all kinds of masculine incarnations. Brazilian caballero? Got it. Proper Englishman going to see the Queen? No problem. Cowboy line dancing at the Little Bear? Nailed. Even a Lindy-hopping WWII buff swinging his partner around, grinning the entire number.  It is just a riot to go through some of his performance videos, almost impossible to see the same man.  Truly a remarkable ability.

I am so thankful for this whole experience. Before Chris and I had children, we coached for several years with an old Arthur Murray warhorse named Dolph Sands. Dolph had long since departed the Murray franchise and made a name for himself in Albany. Dolph advanced dancers at the pace they were capable of, and Chris and I were always challenged.

Chris was a marvelous pianist, and we discovered we had an affinity for  waltz.

“Click.” We fit together beautifully.

Brook describes each dance as a story, and waltz is one that is marked by longing and pursuit. I  am long past pursuit of my partner. We had a long history of pursuit, attaining each other, and pursuing goals together. But I don’t think I’ll ever be past longing, perhaps that’s part of true love lost.

I’ll be with Brook for as long as I am able, as it is hugely enjoyable for me to take master classes from an expert. That he is personable and friendly is a bonus.

Waltz and Viennese Waltz are my favorites, and I just about beyond the need to soak my partner’s shoulder with tears. But waltzing from one end of the studio to the other with Brook? It’s like breathing again.

Much love,


PS- Join me! You have my contact information. Here is Brook Metcalf’s- 702-493-5147.


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