Alone together with the performing arts during social isolation 

Paula Varanda


When Serry Turkle wrote Alone together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other (2010) - she critically addressed the attraction of humans to machine interaction and the benefits of loneliness and isolated communication, escaping from negotiation and exposure that are inherent to live interaction. Forefront cultural agents understood presence to be tied to liveness and online performance was a tabu. Although such arguments were deconstructed (Auslander 1998), mediated performance was seen to contradict its ontology and enter the capitalist economy of reproduction (Phelan 1984), and destroy its aura (Benjamin 2008). In the dance scene, people remained bound to communal living of an ephemeral event, as part of regular social and working environments. This text will report on case studies in Portugal and analyze the response of programmers, artists and audiences to overcome the isolation imposed with covid-19 pandemic. In the second decade of the 21st century, when we found ways of being together again, were we renewing the understanding of Fischer-Lichte’s (2012) concept of radical presence?


Paula Varanda was awarded a PhD by Middlesex University in 2016, with research on dance and new media. Her work, focused in performing arts and cultural projects in Portugal and Europe, has been published and presented in conferences. She was dance critic for Público newspaper for a decade; and she was director of the General Directorate for the Arts in the Ministry of Culture (2016-2018). Presently she is associate researcher of the Institute of Art History (IHA) and guest professor at Universidade Nova de Lisboa. She is director of the elders company Companhia Maior since 2020.