2 min

A repulsive affair

Unrequited love in a queer May-December romance

BLUE EYES BLACK HAIR. Brian Webb and Tania Alvarado explore unrequited love. Credit: Xtra files

Edmonton-based choreographer Brian Webb has probably never had to face the criticism of being boring; perhaps audiences might complain of having their stomachs turned, but not of being bored.

He first gained notoriety with a series of self-portraits that toured Canada in the 1980s. “I had one piece entitled Magic, Magic, Miracles, in which I took a vial of my blood on stage, and then splattered the blood on the walls,” says Webb. “I was exploring questions like, does this blood give life, or is it a weapon?”

In another piece that explored patriarchy, Webb arrived on stage carrying an 80-pound hip of raw beef, which he hacked with a meat clever while asking the audience, “How do you tell your father you bend over and take it up the ass?”

“People really responded to the work, they always had an immediate reaction, the interdisciplinary aspect was really powerful,” says Webb.

In his new work, A Summer Evening Seems To Be At The Heart Of The Affair, presented by Dancemakers, Webb once again is mixing media, with live music by Dave Wall and large screen video portraits by Tim Folkmann accompanying the dance. “I am really interested in different ways of combining technologies with live performance,” says Webb, “always to create a deeper intimacy with the work.”

Intimacy is one of the key themes in this latest work. A Summer Evening is based on Marguerite Duras’s novel Blue Eyes Black Hair in which a man and a woman have an affair which is never consummated because they are both in love with the same man.

The duet, created and performed by Webb and dancer Tania Alvarado, mimics the real life relationship between Webb and Alvarado. “Tania and I have been wanting to collaborate for a long time,” says Webb. “I was still interested in using the self as a source, and I thought of the Duras story in which an older man and a younger woman have this intimate and at the same time repulsive affair – I am quite a bit older than Tania.”

A Summer Evening is set on an elegant stage with white walls and floor, a beautiful chandelier and a large scale picture frame in which the video is projected. Webb wears a blue suit and Alvarado a red dress; during the course of dance, the clothes get stripped off, until they’re only in white underwear.

“Some people think it’s almost pornographic,” admits Webb. “But it’s accentuating how we’re dealing with the body as a mode of expression. All our flaws are right there, it just reinforces our vulnerability.

“Dance isn’t about telling a story, it’s about the present moment. I use themes that help express vibrations at certain moments. This piece is about the need to really communicate intimately with another person.”


$15. 8pm. Thu, May 8-10.

Dancemakers Studio.

927 Dupont St.

(416) 535-8880.