When I was so new in the ballroom business that I wasn't yet really in the business, I worked in a studio with a young woman who spent most of her free time dancing with herself in the mirror. She had a regular dance partner, but anytime I saw her alone, she was in front of the mirror, dancing with and gazing intently at...herself. She looked completely isolated from the rest of the room and the people in it. I didn't have the understanding that would have come from a lifelong dance background, and I jumped to the conclusion that she was excessively vain and thoroughly unapproachable, and I felt a little put off by her.
I couldn't have been more wrong, and boy, am I glad to have the excuse of youth to pin it on! Over time, circumstances threw us together, and as I got to know her and her husband, I came to realize that they were the warmest, least vain people you could know - in day-to-day life. On the dance floor was another matter.
They had come from a background of dance training that made it unadvisable for you to be the weak link in your partnership of two - no pressure, right? As a result, any time you had available outside of rehearsing with your partner was spent rehearsing and improving yourself. In their world, ten minutes between appointments was not to be wasted on a break, but was better spent improving your line in a crossover break, finding the best hand position, and repeating it over and over until it was ingrained. Hence the mirror - how else are you supposed to check on your line when you're the only one watching?
What I misinterpreted as unapproachableness was, in the studio, a laser-beam-like focus. On the competitive dance floor, it was the confidence to win, which might have smacked of arrogance if they hadn't been genuine and well-mannered both on the floor and off. She always tried to help me find and display that level of confidence for myself, regardless of my level of dance proficiency, but it never worked. Maybe the ripe old age of 21 was too late - they had been developing it since they were in the single digits.
Although I wasn't ever going to possess the dance floor in the way that they did, I still applied a lot of their lessons. I certainly learned to appreciate the mirror as a tool to improve my dance performance. I also think I became a better human just by knowing them. At the very least, I learned to use more discernment before making judgments.