BEST DANCE TROUPE 2020 | Danielle Georgiou Dance Group | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Anthony Lazon

DGDG was having a strong year before the pandemic hit; last Halloween, they premiered the limited engagement Bippy Boppy Boo Show at Theatre Too (Theatre Three's basement theater). The show combined dance and comedy with plenty of horror and a little of the occult to offer a spooky love letter to theater and to Halloween; the show was so good that they're bringing it back for round two this Halloween. DGDG took a more serious turn when the pandemic hit, producing the film The Savage Seconds in association with Undermain Theatre (where Georgiou is associate artistic director), whose themes of loss and adolescence blended with pandemic-related angst. These productions, both written by Georgiou and Justin Locklear, were fabulous additions to a tumultuous season of Dallas dance and theater.

It's strange the way music can sometimes lie dormant until a time when its meaning can be better understood. Back when we thought the pandemic would be over before we knew it, Yells at Eels and Pinkish Black released their soundtrack to isolation, Vanishing Light in the Tunnel of Dreams. The collaboration between Dallas' most prominent avant-jazz and avant-metal acts had actually been recorded over two years beforehand, but when the lockdowns started, the members of each group along with producer Stéphane Berland of Ayler Records dusted off the old tracks and delivered an album that transcends the conventions of any genre. Grounded in a search for connection at a time when connections between people seemed a distant memory (as well as a steady diet of old zombie movies), Pinkish Black's Daron Beck spent nearly a month mixing the 2-year-old audio to be a reflection of the weird world we find ourselves in.

It was a much simpler time, the '60s, the '90s and July 2019, when Three Links owner Scott Beggs put on the first and possibly only ever WoodScott festival in honor of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. The celebration was intended to celebrate the festival's entire history, including its 1969, 1994 and 1999 editions. For e two nights in July, bands came together to perform sets honoring The Who, Parliament-Funkadelic, Green Day and Limp Bizkit among others. Bands and fans alike reveled in the nostalgic hits. In some cases, what began as a joke became a source of real '90s alt-radio vibes the audience just couldn't help but dig into.

Mikel Galicia

Have you picked up smoking again to manage the boredom? Or maybe you've powered through both good times and bad with your American Spirit's proudly tucked away in your shirt pocket? Now, where to smoke them? With non-mask wearers most recently taking all the heat, smokers are free to spark it up without being shamed. The parking lot of Bishop Cidercade, a retro arcade with a killer food truck, provides the perfect setting for a midnight smoke. Nestled on Irving Boulevard and tucked away from the crowded city, the parking lot gets the kind of cool summer breeze you'd imagine from a Francis Ford Coppola film. The only thing missing from this industrial park is graffiti stating "The Motorcycle Boy Reigns." Smoke 'em if you have 'em.

There's a pretty good chance you haven't been following the progression of Dallas' face-meltingest metal act Mountain of Smoke, but when their cover album Replicated comes out with all of its incredible takes on The Prodigy, Duran Duran and Fugazi, you're going to wonder just how much you missed out on. The short answer is a lot. Mountain of Smoke began as a two-piece band with Brooks Willhoite on bass and vocals and PJ Costigan on drums. The band slowly added to its membership and sound. When Mountain of Smoke's Gods of Biomechanics came out in 2018, the addition of pedal steel guitar player Alex Johnson gave the band a more industrial depth. Now, with the addition of Kyle Shutt of Austin metal band The Sword, Mountain of Smoke's December 2019 release Future Sins bit back even harder, faster and with the intensity of a band that has now outgrown its old stages both in its physical presence and sound.

Bridging the gap between highly anticipated awards contenders and the best of local cinema, the newly launched North Texas Film Festival (NTXFF) became the go-to festival for Dallas film buffs. Festival audiences got the chance to watch early previews of some of the fall's most acclaimed films launched at international festivals, including Marriage Story, The Two Popes, Clemency and Dolemite Is My Name while also getting a slice of local cinema thanks to NTXFF's "Best of DIFF (Dallas International Film Festival)" short films and feature presentations. Throw in a full-on red carpet, themed events, selected guests and a select series of classic films that included Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and Friday Night Lights, and NTXFF became an exciting new hub for Dallas cinephiles in pre-pandemic times.

Although she'd made a name for herself in the past few years with limited roles in projects such as Justified, The Front Runner, and Beautiful Boy, Dallas-raised star Kaitlyn Dever announced herself as one of the most exciting young talents with not one, but two critically acclaimed performances. The 23-year-old star wowed with her performance as the anxious high school senior Amy in the crowd-pleasingly progressive comedy Booksmart, and also received a Golden Globe nomination for her role as the victim of a sexual assault in the Netflix series Unbelievable. Dever's hype train won't be slowing down anytime soon as she will next be seen in the Hulu horror anthology series Monsterland and the highly anticipated film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen.

Michael Lark Photography

It takes a lot of work to keep up with Kathryn Dunn, former Dallas Mavericks dancer and beauty pageant queen turned reality TV star. Dunn competed on CBS' 21st season of Big Brother, and even though she didn't take home the money, she did earn a reputation as a "conspiring bitch." Since the show ended, she has gone on to launch a podcast, YouTube channel, clothing line and still kept people interested in her love life. (She ditched her Big Brother co-star for a fellow Dallasite, Bachelor blogger Reality Steve.) Her tweets about who she's stanning in the Big Brother All-Stars house now keeps everyone on their toes. Even though she could have left her hometown and headed to Hollywood, Dunn stayed in Dallas and keeps conspiring away.

courtesy Alexandre's

Before the pandemic, Alexandre's had been known for offering platforms for local actors, singers and performers. Owner Lee Daugherty has also been quite vocal on his political stances and encouraged healthy conversation in his bar. Since the bar and restaurant closures, Daugherty organized a crowdfund to support his employees. In addition to creating a safe environment for queer and trans people, Daugherty remains ardent about human rights. He attended several protests in support of Black Lives Matter this summer and was even detained for one night. Even outside of work, Daugherty embodies Alexandre's values.

Mike Brooks

The historic Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff is an indisputable source of pride for the city; it has survived fires, decades of inactivity and changes in ownership — and now, 2020. Besides having one of the best sounding rooms and some of the best live music programming, the venue has remained a class act throughout the pandemic. Owner Edwin Cabaniss was instrumental in the fight for the Save Our Stages Act introduced in late July, which could mean billions in relief to independent venues. The staff also entertained the neighborhood using the theater's marquee to spell out uplifting messages and educated us through song recommendations with a song of the day. Even with the curtains drawn, The Kessler refused to leave music-starved audiences to their own devices and directed us to Iggy Pop, Soundgarden and even Miley Cyrus' latest SNL performance.

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