[Editor’s Note: In this series, we are shining a light on our workforce in and around the Benelux. This Spotlight is on Marilyn Brulez, USAG Benelux safety manager, who works at Chièvres Air Base and spends her free time as a dance instructor, competitive dance coach and judge for dance competitions.]
CHIEVRES, Belgium – In the military environment there is no shortage of technical experts in specialties related to engineering, defense programs and communication systems. But here at Chièvres Air Base, the garrison also has experts in other diverse specialties such as arts and culture. One such expert is Marilyn Brulez, who has worked for the U.S. Army for nearly 40 years and has pursued a passion for dance her whole life.
Brulez, whose love for dance started with ballet as a young girl, has earned multiple master’s degrees in dance from the Belgian Union of Teachers of Dance and Manners and she performed as a competitive dancer in the Latin dance of Salsa for several years. She is also the vice-president of the League of Instructors for Dance Sports and Leisure in the Wallonia region of Belgium and serves as a competitive dance coach and instructor for multiple styles of ballroom dancing and a judge for dance competitions across Europe.
After studying, competing and coaching dance for decades, Brulez explained that her passion is currently expressed through personal dance, coaching and instructing. When it comes to personal dance, her favorite types are the Latin American category such as the Cha Cha and Rumba. The Latin dances are special to her not only because her father was Spanish, but also because of the freedom of movement and expression they allow for the female dance partner.
“I love those dances for one reason, because you're not always in the arms of the other dancer,” said Brulez. In ballroom dancing it’s more controlled, so I don't have as much latitude or liberty versus the cha-cha, where I can just give my hands to my partner, she said.
But for Brulez, dancing is not only a personal affair. Coaching and instructing are ways she shares her love for dance with others and she enjoys watching how dance makes positive changes in the lives of her students. In recent years Brulez has specialized in teaching Latin and Swing dances and as a competitive dance coach, she takes great pride in helping couples reach their maximum potential to perform competitively across Europe. She is the only certified Swing dance instructor in the Wallonia region of Belgium and was the coach for a couple who became the Latin dance champions for Belgium in 2022.
Whether it’s coaching or instructing students, Brulez said she loves the positive energy dance provides and the emotional connection it creates for the couples who dance together under her instruction. She has a wide range of students, some who have followed her for more than 20 years, as well as others who are newcomers to dance.
“I have some in their twenties that are coming for ballroom but where you see a lot of young people is Salsa and Swing and Bachata lessons,” said Brulez. “My oldest student is 86-years-old and he is still doing ballroom and Latin dance.”
For many of the couples who are dance students, dance class is their only opportunity to spend quality time together away from the pressures of daily life, explained Brulez. The most important thing is that they do something together, that they have one hour where they don't think about the bad things in life, she said. “They can leave their problems at home, put on some nice clothes and for a moment they are making a show.”
When it comes to her work as the Garrison Safety Manager, Brulez said her focus on risk management and safe work practices to create a more healthful work and living environment shares some aspects with her approach to dance, where healthy living and physical fitness are vital to continuing her passion for dance for decades to come.
If you are a dancer like I have been doing my whole life, then you need to be very strict with yourself, said Brulez. “If you know how to take care of yourself then you can take care of the others you know too.”
This Spotlight series will continue to tell the stories of our workforce in and around the Benelux. We are the Army’s home - we are IMCOM.