ARENA: Dressage to Impress
A starry & enchanted night of human performance in the Hill Country
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
11:35AM, Tue. Apr. 26, 2016
1. Yes, Austin’s Jennifer Sherburn seems to have turned human beings into horses, but rest assured that she hasn’t done so in any literal, genetic-engineering sort of fashion, so, please, put those torches and pitchforks away.
2. You see their bodies moving in patterns across the wide arena of raked sand, moving like shadows against a backdrop of Texas Hill Country forest that falls away forever and fades to darkness and starshine as the sun sets and whippoorwills can be heard in the lulls among the sounds of beauty that swell and shimmer from instruments wielded by Sherburn’s brother and his band.
3. Not one more number here before I tell you that I’m talking about an elaborate dance piece that’s called Arena and was devised and directed by that industrious Jennifer Sherburn, and it features live music by Justin Sherburn and is enhanced with suitably dramatic lighting by Natalie George and Sadie Langenkamp, and each night that it’s performed out there in the dressage arena of Fair Oaks Farm near Dripping Springs it’s followed by an al fresco family-style meal conjured by a different chef each night.
4. Thirty white horses on a red hill; first they champ, then they stamp, then they stand still.
5. There are cocktails awaiting you, suffused with Dripping Springs vodka or gin, made to order beneath a giant old oak tree when you first arrive within the green expanse of Fair Oaks Farm and take in the rolling scenery, the large pond nearby that shimmers in the fading light, the couple of friendly dogs and one orange cat trotting around as if they own this place that seems to have been there eternally to provide an absolute of beauty against which all pastoral scenes beneath the Lone Star State’s big sky can be judged.
6. So many stars out there in the night, away from the lights of the city. So many many many many many many many many many stars.
7. Taryn Lavery. Alex Miller. Amy Meyers. Katie Gunerson. Yvonne Keyrouz. Heather Liberman. Libby Horton. Mystic Jace Pride. Genevieve Schmidt. These are the names of the dancers who race and turn and spin upon the sand, moving with well-practiced vigor amid the descending dusk and the whippoorwills and the amplified symphony of Justin Sherburn and Brian Purrington and friends.
8. “We’ve been working together for a few years now,” Jennifer Sherburn says of her composer brother. “I didn't get into dance and choreography until later in life – Justin and I started to connect and collaborate artistically as adults. I'm a very lucky sister!”
9. There are only two more performances of this Arena. You can go to just the show, or both the show and the dinner – the final gathering on Sunday, May 1, features an entire roasted pig – or you could even make a whole day of it, drive on out to Wimberley or Kyle, do the local tourist sort of thing in the antique stores and along the tree-shaded riverbeds and so on, then end your day at Fair Oaks Farm where the dressage instructor Nancy Fair and her horse Baron will ride among the stilled dancers in the arena to set the performance in motion.
10. Whichever of these you choose, you really should make a point of attending this show in one way or another, or, oh, dear reader, there will be a sad absence of one truly glorious experience in your life.