Over the course of the past five decades, Brian Webb has worn many hats: artist, dancer, educator, advocate and creative visionary. Today, as the artistic director behind the Brian Webb Dance Company, he is daring and passionate advocate for the arts in Edmonton. But when he’s not stealing the spotlight on stage or waiting eagerly in the wings, Webb focuses on one of his most important roles: bringing people together.
“As an artist in the modern sense, you’re making art for the people you live and communicate with each day. There was once a time when artists were on a pedestal, and audience and performer were separate,” he says. “But today, art serves us as a connected and engaged community. Through performance, we all get to experience something together.”
Since founding BWDC in 1979, Webb has used the company’s multidisciplinary performances to build bridges. He’s witnessed first-hand the evolution of relationships between performers, audiences and the greater community. And he’s keenly aware of the important role that BWDC and other likeminded organizations can play in strengthening ties between people.
“With the dance company, we work really hard to be inclusive and engage diverse groups with our performances,” he says. “As an artist, I have a responsibility to interact with other individuals and groups at the local, provincial and national levels. Those interactions have great value—they encourage us to look at things from new perspectives and start conversations we might not have otherwise had.”
Today, after more than 40 years at the helm, Webb is still the driving force behind BWDC’s continued innovation. Much of his time is spent finding ways to keep BWDC on the cutting edge with abstract and sometimes unconventional performances.
“Our mission is to provide contemporary art, which is fluid. We’re doing highly abstract, often challenging work that creates questions and starts conversations,” he says.
He’s content to keep pushing the creative envelope, and as keen as ever to perform. But as he readies himself for the company’s new seasons, he looks back fondly on a long and storied career that his seen him cross stages around the world.
“It’s important to remember that I couldn’t do this by myself. I couldn’t build a dance company, an artistic network or any of this on my own,” he says. “Edmontonians invested in the Brian Webb Dance Company, and in turn, into creating a more connected, active and engaged community.”