Danielle Pickard

2010 marked the first year that Dallas' pride and joy of celluloid and big screens left the AFI umbrella and adopted its own moniker: The Dallas International Film Festival. And it was a banner year thanks to the delicious programming talents of artistic director James Faust, senior programmer Sarah Harris and chairman of the board Michael Cain. There were roughly 30 films ranging from big budget to local indie, spread from morning to night over the festival's 10 days (and we didn't miss a one).That there were gems that still replay on our brain-screen some six months later says much about the quality of the selections: in particular, the lush, dramatic Italian-set I Am Love; the captivating, adventurous Korean spaghetti Western The Good, The Bad, The Weird; the comedic yet troubling doc The Red Chapel; the sinister yet sympathetic Lovers of Hate; and the absolutely uplifting Thunder Soul. DIFF2010 was safely some of the most gratifying (albeit emotionally exhausting) time we've spent in a theater seat.

From Reunion Tower to One Arts Plaza, there are plenty of landmarks on the Dallas skyline to catch your eye—and Justin Terveen shoots them all with monkish dedication. What makes his work stand out, though, is the way an abandoned high-rise tower, a run-down shack on Deep Ellum's fringes or a homeless guy in a doorway all get treated with equal reverence. "The importance of preservation, and what we've lost—that's been a big part of what's fueled me," Terveen says. It shows in his repeat trips for fresh angles on 100-year-old landmarks that are staring down the wrecking ball. In the six years since the 31-year-old shooter moved downtown, Terveen says his focus has always been the same: "grit, streets and old stuff"—three things Dallas does best.

A member of Dallas Theater Center's Brierley Resident Acting Company, Vahle has been acting professionally for 25 years. Known for her versatility and strength in a variety of roles (she once played the title role in Macbeth), Vahle's had a great run of star turns recently. She was lovely as royalty in DTC's pop-art A Midsummer Night's Dream, then turned in what was arguably the best performance of the 2010 season as Linda Loman in that theater's intense staging of Death of a Salesman. Opposite New York actor Jeffrey DeMunn as Willy, Vahle gave a breathtaking performance as a woman determined to hold her family together as her husband slowly lost his grip on reality. Those who saw that Salesman and heard Vahle reinvent the "attention must be paid" speech will never forget her in that role. The SMU grad (from the MFA program) is also an assistant professor of acting and voice at University of North Texas. (Pay attention, kids.)

Costume designer Aaron Patrick Turner makes the metaphorical silk purse out of sows' ears for many a local theatrical production. Working on lavish budgets or on the "Can you get it free?" plan, Turner has earned a reputation as a meticulous creator of beautiful period costumes. Among his best are the clothes he made for Trinity Shakespeare Festival's Twelfth Night, Amphibian Stage's Icarus, Contemporary Theatre of Dallas' Oldest Living Graduate, Rabbit Hole and The Cemetery Club, and this summer's elegant 1930s wardrobe for the comedy The 39 Steps at Stage West. As local stage costumers go, Turner's got the title of "best" all sewn up.

Regular readers of the Observer music section won't find this nod as much of a surprise. The best local release of 2010? That's easy: It's Sarah Jaffe's Suburban Nature, a collection of heartbreaking, vulnerable tunes penned by the prodigious 24-year-old Dallas native, who for the past year has toured the country supporting the likes of fellow DFW products Midlake and Norah Jones while making quite a name for herself along the way. The praise she's earned has been plentiful, coming even from national outlets like Paste magazine and USA Today. Jaffe's blend of indie rock, folk and pop is intoxicating, relatable and, most of all, pleasant. And it's tough to find just one reason why. Her wavering vocals, her close-to-the-vest lyrics, her tasteful guitar picking and strumming, and her impeccable backing players' performances all add up to a powerhouse record.

Angela Hunt, District 14
Traveling Man, Deep Ellum
The Conduit Gallery

The Conduit isn't just a "walk in, stand and stare" sort of art gallery. Oh, sure, you can do that all day long, but the spacious gallery nestled in the Design District doesn't require you to keep still or whisper your thoughts. You will feel the creative energy in the air, and if you're fortunate to make it to an opening or art happening, you'll definitely see it in full force. Art devotees come out in droves to celebrate what owner/director Nancy Whitenack and assistant director/Project Room curator Danette Dufilho have to showcase. The gallery has featured interactive sculpture, video art installations, large scale paintings, site-specific installations and murals, text and diary adaptations and collage. Conduit shows three full exhibitions concurrently, most of them of solo artists—many of whom are no strangers to our state. Whitenack says there is a strong representation of artists working in Texas, and an equal amount of other artists scattered across the country.

The School of Contemporary Ballet Dallas

We always heard if you didn't graduate high school and go on to become a professional dancer you'd be relegated to watching So You Think You Can Dance? from your couch for eternity. Wait, what? No. Contemporary Ballet Dallas knows that isn't the case when it opens its East Dallas doors almost daily and welcomes adults to revisit dance classes typically reserved for kids and teens. Naturally, children's classes do abound, but so do ones for adults, and for all experience levels. It's possible to start from the beginning—or just recover what time has erased—with an encouraging, professional dance instructor and a beginner ballet or tap workshop. The school also offers hip-hop dance and Nia movement as well as jazz and samba. The old saying isn't true. You can go back...and gain some muscle tone doing it.

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