In the midst of all the hyper-activity of SXSW, here are a few moments of sheer beauty that I've come across--little snapshots that existed only for a second or two and then vanished.
Tiny stolen moments in the cacophony that surrounds SXSW...little intimacies I wasn't supposed to see.
These are the ones that go in my treasure box.
1) The 30-something woman--a senior manager at a very large corporation, influential in her field and sought-after as an expert and speaker--who had dreams of being a professional dancer as a child. Attending an awards ceremony held in a ballet studio, gazing in the mirror and assuming first position, checking the curvature of her arms and the correct angle of her feet.
She subconsciously slips in a demi-plie; a respectful curtsy to the gods of Dance like she was trained to do many years ago. For the briefest moment, her eyes sparkled, her soul twirling and leaping with her dreams remembered and she became a little girl who loved to dance more than anything else in the world.
Then she laughed, and talked about something else. But she was still dancing on the inside.
2) Riding the bus, catching the eye of a very pretty transsexual heading for home after a night out. She gave me a smile, I smiled back and then she turned her head away and wouldn't look at me for the rest of the ride. Maybe a little fearful that I would uncover her secret under the harsh lights of the bus interior?
During the ride, I thought about her and how much courage she had--I wonder if I would have that much courage to be who I am in public, if 'who I am' is that far outside of the norm? Her hands gave her away--large, weathered hands with a bit of grease still under the cuticles. Man's hands, probably a mechanic.
When I left the bus, she finally looked at me again and gave me a flirtatious smile with a little toss of her hair, and looked away again shyly.
Just like a girl.
3) The middle-aged Latina waitress at the end of her shift in a still-busy Mexican restaurant late Sunday night. Harried, still serving tables and trying to finish her work and close out so she could go home, she would be occasionally be overcome by the music from the live salsa band and break out in fierce moments of dance once she got off the floor and was hidden from view in the waitress station.
Music so powerful, so ingrained in her soul, that even when tired and given the chance to rest, she danced.
4) A random connection that happened because of mistaken identity. Standing in the doorway of a room, waiting to leave for the day, a woman approaches me joyfully, with a smile and a big greeting. Then realizes I'm not who she thought I was. We laugh and chat to get over the awkwardness.
Turns out we have much in common professionally, and the person she was there to meet was someone that I wanted to meet too. In the midst of our 'professional' conversation, I mention that I came to the world of social media via the theater.
"Really?", she asked, eyes lighting up. She leaned in slightly towards me, and lowers her voice just a bit, as if she were to share a secret. "I'm a jazz singer." Her body seemed to relax a bit, lighter, like a heavy cloak had been removed from her shoulders.
We are all so much more than what we appear to be.
5) A recipient of an award recognizing work in the social media field, responds to the audience asking for a speech. Unplanned, unscripted, she fumbles a bit for words--she's not used to public speaking. "I don't want to be a rock star", she says. "We're in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and there are a lot of people out of work."
She pauses a moment, looking for eloquence. Her heart wants to speak, her mind struggles to find the right words to express the depth of her feeling, but she's uncomfortable at a microphone, there are lights shining on her and 75 people are looking at her, waiting for her to say something.
Somewhat awkwardly, she blurts, "We're in trouble, people. Let's help each other out." To rousing applause from the audience.
The words are always perfect when spoken from the heart.
This is the best of SXSW so far.