Welcome Bienvenue

Hello and thank you for visiting.

This website regards my work and research in Portugal and abroad, which spreads from dance to a good range of activities around contemporary arts and cultural management and policy. This page links to several people, artworks and projects as I have dedicated a good amount of time documenting, analyzing and reporting the cultural scene development in Portugal, strongly represented by stage performance and public events. With my academic research I also achieved a comprehensive coverage of digital artworks emerging in the new media era.

Follow the pages, the links and the posts. Find it yourself. I appreciate your feedback.

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Recently on Critical (dance) Stages

MARGEM – A brutal anatomy of adolescence

Extended review published in the Portuguese edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, march 2019

MARGIN (Margem) is a superb new work by Portuguese choreographer Victor Hugo Pontes in collaboration with Joana Craveiro among other excellent contributors. It brings to the stage the romance Os Capitães da Areia by Jorge Amado (1937) and with it the actual reality of children and youngsters that live in institutions away from their families. The piece premièred in 2018 with a commission by Fábrica das Artes from Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon and was touring extensively in 2019 when I wrote about it. A huge success! A space of citizenship for young people to experience critical emotions of extraordinary lives between peers. For the adults this was a precious opportunity to get to know the adolescence that inhabits the fringes of society.  Read article here

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Recently in dance and cyberspace

Intimacy and affectivity in cyberspace

confrence presentation @ What’s love got to do with it?
Performance, Affectivity, Intimacy 

19-02-2019 – Culturgest, Lisbon

In the presence of a reality of emotions, knowledge and social interaction mediated and augmented by information and communication technologies, aesthetics and human-computer interaction become interested in understanding how affectivity and intimacy determine our engagement with digital-born artworks. For the latent work-events, that require the audience voluntary action to be actualized, the quality of the experience is critical. In this context, three artworks that I catalogue as new media performance, will be presented to demonstrate how they instigate multi-sensorial engagement and self and social awareness. Affect, as an embodied practice of judgement that asserts rightness to the image-based work, contributes to loving the experience and staying connected in an intimate exchange that converges public and private space.



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Recently in Cultural Policy

Apoio às artes – um modelo em construção

Jornal Público 18-01-2019

Artigo de opinião sobre a revisão em curso do novo modelo de apoio às artes. Apresentação das alterações mais relevantes e discussão das suas implicações. Sempre defendi que o modelo não se esgota na legislação. A declaração de apoios, os orçamentos, avisos de aberturas, formulários e comissões de apreciação são outras peças chave de uma política de democracia cultural. A realização do modelo depende também da saúde da DGARTES. Artigo integral aqui


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Recently in community art

Cultura de inovação e sustentabilidade – uma arte no Alentejo

conference presentation @  Congresso Ciência Cultura e Turismo Sustentável

Academia das Ciências 27-11-2018

Esta comunicação pretende salientar como a Cultura é um conceito susceptível de variáveis de interpretação e utilização, projetando realidades ancoradas no meio rural que o concretizam através de casos e circunstâncias com poder demonstrativo. A forma como se compreende o conceito de cultura é um condição inevitável para a sua valorização social e valorização política; e delas dependerá a inovação e sustentabilidade da produção artística que se enquadra nas práticas culturais. É um princípio determinante para a profissionalização dos agentes e para a qualidade e originalidade dos bens. Esta argumentação de caráter especulativo tem como base empírica os resultados da prática de uma associação cultural, promotora de um projeto para a comunidade com vertentes de criação, formação e programação, em Mértola, Castro Verde, Beja, Aljustrel e Ferreira-do-Alentejo.  Fomentou-se um diálogo entre expressões tradicionais e linguagens contemporâneas; representou-se a cultura local dentro e para fora da comunidade; e ensaiou-se um modelo de trabalho inovador no contexto das medidas para a descentralização e democracia cultural. Far-se-á uma correspondência destas ações com a argumentação de que a cultura prossegue e cumpre fins das políticas para o desenvolvimento sustentável dos territórios e das sociedades.

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To IPad or not to IPad (Media thought 12/jun/2014-PV)

With these thoughts I want to share a genuine concern and hopefully instigate more critical views on this subject. We need further awareness about what may be hidden, in this kind of advertising and enthusiasm with the new magical toy.

First there was TV: the world inside you home

When you are mother of a three year old that needs to be entertained while you mess up with funding applications, dance reviews, PhD reading or the simple day to day cleaning and tiding up, you begin to understand why parents like kids TV programmes so much. What a helpful box, you can buy some slots of time undoubtedly, and if you choose the right programmes, that time is also an educational one. The other side of this is that kids are spending a far more than reasonable amount of hours a day staring at screens.

Connectivity and creativity increased: your home out in the world

Computer games have been adding on to the TV options since the 1980s and console games are at the hype. They increase connectivity some may say, because the kids can play with remote ‘friends’. They increase literacy, we may even agree, because they play with arithmetic and various languages, some even develop programming skills, and some games have historical themes or geography challenges. But 5 years ago TVs and console games (displaying in desktop computers and TV screens) were generally confined to fixed spaces, private or public, such as the living room, the bed room, the café (in Portugal TVs polute cafés and restaurants without fail and in the UK there is now hardly a pub without a wide screen).

Tablets: all you need is a screen

Although at the start of this text I showed some sympathy for parents recurring to the TV as a little helper with educational value, I feel sometimes speechless and demolished.

This is what the case when I was recently at a hospital’s waiting room and saw a three year old kid gazing and touching a tablet, completely neutralized and absent from the environment around him (this was a nice hospital, all clean, good architecture and interior design, etc). I couldn’t refrain my critical thoughts about how people deal with media content and electronic gadgets. The father just next to him was not busy with anything at all. He was just looking around waiting… why would he not take that time to be with the kid? Talk to him, teach him something about colours, keep hand together and feel his touch, instead of leaving that sensual encounter to the screen surface?

They are so smart and charming!

Tablets have since the launch of Ipad in 2010 become ubiquitous, following what mobile phones, and particularly smartphones introduced in our lives: we can take it anywhere: internet, youtube, google maps, calendars, games, docs, facebook, email, cameras, etc. etc. Yes of course, that is the fun of it, and it is what makes them worth and new. Adding to connectivity, and literacy, creativity is also a hard to fight argument, with incredibleIPad_kids_photo1 apps springing continuously in the market: try Bubble Shapes – to practice shape recognition – or Musical Paint – to create audio-visual compositions. It is so beautiful, so practical, so playful, so useful! Irresistible indeed.

Ipadkids.com is a website where one can find apps, forums, and technical support, daily updated with news and upgrades, and lots of information for parents and educators. Products for kids are advertised like this: “iPad Maze Apps To…. Keep Little Minds and Fingers Busy” or “stimulates the growth of new brain cells, develops fine-motor skills, improves problem-solving abilities, rewards patience and persistence” (check the website)

What about the unwanted? Like radiation, teenage porn and immoral advertising?

My daughter is praying everyday for us to have an IPad. And I am resisting. Because I don’t want her to have her body and mind in such close contact with: wifi, battery, screen, and most of all – the content! There is no going round it, if you have an Ipad you are connected, you can be tracked, and you have to pass all the information of advertising campaigns. The good values are wrapped by many other values. You might not want Miley the new media soft porn star but you will have to come across her if you navigate, through Itunes, or youtube. You might not want to see the massacres in Syria but you will have to click through the news. Even worth, to see a youtube film or download a free app you will almost certainly have to watch an add about the new Opel Astra, or maybe the wonderful effects of bottox, which are filtering your own will and path inside cyberspace.

They are also addictive, they isolate you and they format our children

Three major issues downsize my enthusiasm with Tablets. The kids get hooked and take them everywhere – no more cars, dolls, books, just the tablet. They don’t communicate with each others – nowadays when we get together with friends that have kids, particularly from 10 years old onwards, the kids all sit around the tablets, hunched down, eyes glittering. They hardly speak to each other or the adults around them – so tablets bring undoubtedly lack of interaction, lack of confront and diminish the pleasure of being with “the other”. Such an obsession implies health problems that no one seems to care about that much, it seems that we don’t want to see the real near future and prevent it. In this rather more critical perspective on the IPad wonders, I realize something worse: any effort for an alternative education, where natural environments, organic food, gender equality, human rights or creativity as intelligence are building blocks of belief and behavior, is massively defeated by the values of mainstream capitalist mass media culture, that invades our life through those cheeky lovely tablets.

Paula Varanda


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Theatre Review – ISOLDE, by the New York City Players


About: New York City Players –  Isolde
@ Culturgest auditorium, Lisbon, 15th January 2016

Review by: Paula Varanda

The New York City Players have come to Lisbon this month for a double bill with Isolde (2014) and The Evening (2015).  The piece I saw on Friday – Isolde – was perfect. Perfect because of it’s conceptual outreach, striding out from a clear contemporary narrative, delivered with a clever and rich set of performative triggers and performed with precise and convincing actors.

The plot develops around Isolde, her husband Patrick, and the architect they hired to design them a new house. A house for her, Patrick stresses out, declaring devotion to the wife he admires and cares for – a woman at the turn point, ageing, beautiful, but less confident about herself and her career as an actress – the house project makes her dream and hope; everything must be according to her will.

Massimo is an awarded architect and he theorizes on the project’s conceptual stance, ecological excellence and cutting edge design – showing expertise, insight and vision. Isolde is fascinated with his glamorous scholarship and creativity. Patrick, in contrast, evaluates materials, budget and other pragmatic issues – he is a contractor and, out of the three, the sensible and conventional one.

This multilayered story is cut short incredibly well in a 1h25 performance. There are temporal and spatial gaps and it is often the details that accurately disclose what is going on, who are these people and what are their beliefs. Events, feelings and conversations are to be deduced and imagined from short phrases, sometimes single words, discrete facial expressions and meticulous body language, reactions between characters and props manipulation, positions on stage and with the stark and versatile visual setting. Nothing is superfluous in this bare to the bone staging that leads to an intricate intellectual and emotional plot. The economy of means is a strong and highly effective quality of the piece, which has compelling immerse power.

In the beginning the acting may seem awkward because the performers sound dispassionate and put minimal energy into moving around and saying the lines. This realism, however, facilitates gradually empathizing deeply with the characters’ individual perspectives and sometimes take a good laugh. The way the performers relate to the audience also contributes to our engagement: we are their horizon and thus become the subject of their gaze; for example, we can either be the surrounding landscape view that Isolde admires with Massimo, or be the draft of the new house pinned on the wall that Patrick and his friend uncle Jerry criticize. Illuminating the stalls softly during the show was a skillful choice to strengthen the feeling of being part, of watching from within.

The piece builds up around the tension of adultery emerging from an arbitrary and relational triangle – Isolde and Massimo will become lovers. This is predictable and a recurrent issue from Greek theatre, to medieval folk tales, to American soap opera. The good surprise relies on how the writer-director has detoured the cliché of tragedy avoiding the woman or even the couple’s degradation as a consequence of this affair. Instead, we encounter a mature perception of human relationships today that eschews traditional morality but is yet tackling honor and respect.

I also think that in Richard Maxwell’s Isolde we witness high culture stepping into the suburban and mainstream society household. The timeless and universal disputes regarding taste and status, associated with dominant erudite cultural values, are here addressed in the frame of democratic and capitalist North-America, enacted by middle class white people; but this could well happen in Portugal. Again, to our surprise, control shifts position: while the architect becomes trapped in the affection (and cannot turn his imagination into the sketches of a real building), the constructor remains clear-minded and proficient (although he knows about the affair). The scene of a wine tasting moment where Patrick demonstrates the skills of a connoisseur is a symbolic clarification. Isolde stands on Patrick’s side of the living room when the three make a toast; by now she has already chosen not to unsettle her marriage with the erotic passion for Massimo.

© Paula Varanda

Please be kind to reference if you use my work, and let me know: 

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25 de Abril sempre ou o valor da marcha

Miúdas, 8,9,12 anos… Foram com as suas mães ao desfile do 25 de Abril… Lá elas ficaram ligeiramente envergonhadas porque as mães, filhas de Abril conscientes da escandaleira roubalheira e bandalheira com que nos estão a governar, gritavam sem pudor, acompanhando os desfilanteimages. Não foi sem resistência, mas Levá-las foi essencial… As mocinhas apanham o que lhes anda à volta, por isso se andarem a ver TVI o mais certo é ganharem tiques de Violeta; se andarem de volta do youtube cantam e dançam pai ranger ou poderosas (pior… Katy perry… Yuc!).

E da mesma forma apanham os motes vocais da liberdade com enorme facilidade. Valeu a pena. Porque elas distraídas entre brincar às pirosas e vestir o pijama começaram hoje espontaneamente a cantar aquilo tudo: aquilo do 25 de Abril sempre, do fascismo nunca mais, que umas dizem que é máchismo nunca mais… de que já só falta um empurrão pró governo ir ao chão, etcetc….. E agora entoam essas crenças em plenos, pulmões, com felicidade e dizem: sabe bem!!! E são lindas, as netas de Abril.



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Peter Michael Dietz – Um super bailarino independente

(texto lido na noite de homenagem ao Peter Michael Dietz organizada pela Companhia de Dança de Almada, dia 26 de Setembro 2014)

Conheço o Peter Michael desde que veio para Portugal nos anos 1990. Cruzámo-nos no meio da nova dança portuguesa, que emergia com a Re.Al – João Fiadeiro, as Danças na Cidade ou a Associação Portuguesa para a Dança, entidades com quem eu trabalhava e aprendia. Vejo sempre o Peter ligado a este tempo de início de uma história essencial que explica o que somos hoje; o início da vida da dança independente, e contemporânea, em Portugal.

Apesar da cumplicidade óbvia que o Peter tinha com o estilo Nova Dança – muito influenciado pela acrobática vertiginosa de Wandekeybus, o voar a dois de Paxton ou a expressão existencial de Baush – notou-se sempre uma singularidade tocante que ainda permanece. Normal; o Peter enquadra-se na disciplina com o princípio de que o bailarino é uma pessoa, constrói como indivíduo, e nas suas relações sociais, uma identidade específica. Não é só corpo, é performer, é pessoa. Mas são poucos os bailarinos em que isto é realmente verdade e o Peter é, em Portugal, um dos melhores e mais persistentes exemplos dessa qualidade rara.

Há algo de pássaro no Peter Michael que sobrevoa, identifica e depois atravessa; há algo de macaco no Peter, que delicia pois ele dança tão bem com dois pés como com um, duas mãos ou mesmo uma mão só, ou até sobre a cabeça. Ainda não tínhamos hábito de ver o hip hop como arte e já o Peter trazia ao palco, no seu corpo forte e ágil, uma mistura de flying low com a elegância das linhas balléticas e uma masculinidade visceral de quem sabe onde está e porque está, consciente de uma escolha sem rede: a concorrência é forte, o público não sustenta, o estado dá muito pouco e ele é um estrangeiro.

Vi no seu último solo, que programei no festival dansul em 2013, um grito irónico e sensível que o caracteriza. A peça é autobiográfica e apresenta uma questão pungente sobre o papel do artista na sociedade: que pretende dizer ao público? qual o valor do seu trabalho?PMD_IMG_0229 que meios tem para o fazer? Nesta estadia no sudeste alentejano os jovens e adultos das escolas locais e da comunidade conheceram a exemplar experiência de Peter Michael Dietz, como bailarino, coreógrafo e formador; um novo público que apreciou sem reservas a sua maneira de estar na vida, com poucas palavras, um corpo pujante e muita autenticidade.

Olho para a carreira do Peter e lamento não ser uma figura pública com poder para o condecorar, certificando o mérito do seu trabalho, empregando-o e assegurando uma reforma merecida pelo seu contributo à nossa cultura com uma profissão de grande e rápido desgaste. Não quero dizer que é hora de se reformar! Espero que continue activo durante muito tempo; mas desejo isso aconteça com a devida dignidade e preocupa-me que possa não ser assim.

Paula Varanda, 15 de Setembro 2014

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Christmas: what presents in the immaterial world? (Media thought  6/jan/2014-PV) 

As a child I was encouraged to make my own Christmas presents for each member of the family. Me, my sister and my cousins had an aunt that was very committed to spend time with us and nurture this habit, which we still keep, almost as a genealogical trace.

In four decades our presents evolved lots. Such changes reveal trends of the time regarding content and regarding materials; our own sensibilities and abilities; or life events. As we became adults and parents, we kept finding creative ways to display photos with best moments, enchanting smiles and other sorts of memories of our shared life with our own children together. In doing so, we are also passing them the habit of doing it yourself for the ones you love; it makes you spend longer time thinking and wishing for the person you are offering the present to.

Another step of present making was assembling music collections of our own best hits. As a teenager I would spend hours deciding playlists and then drawing and making collages for customized and unique covers of cassette tapes. I continued doing that later on in the 1990s with CDs; and in the 2000s the domestic technologies to film, edit and print became so efficient that this evolved to creating our own DVDs. MedTH1_tape

This last Christmas, however, my enthusiasm and good will were finally defeated by reality. CD or DVD players are becoming extinct. Cassettes are archaeology. Music, dance, films, books, pictures… they are all digital content, migrating from one device to another, crossing miles in cyberspace or passing through the cloud, as MP3s, JPEGs, MOVs, GP3s or PDFs. What’s the point of a DVD when people prefer vimeo or youtube? Nobody will listen to the CD because music now is all in I-tunes.

Many other thoughts could follow from this realization. My present reflexion though is that in the immaterial world we seem to be no longer concerned with content, and instead only interested in the devices. So, the real gift is not the film, or the music, or the book; they have lost currency. The hype in Christmas shopping is to buy devices, from which you can access content. By successfully dematerializing content, corporate industries of ITC, have managed to dominate the material world with their products.

PS – I’m not technophobic, I think. That’s why I am doing a PhD in Dance, New Media and Philosophy.                PV / 6-Jan-2014

Natal: que presentes no mundo imaterial?

Em miúda aprendi a fazer os meus próprios presentes de natal para a família.  Eu, a minha irmã e os meus primos tínhamos uma tia que se dedicava muito tempo a fazer trabalhos manuais connosco, incutindo aquele hábito, que ainda temos, como se fosse uma característica genealógica.
Em quatro décadas os nossos presentes evoluíram muito. Essas mudanças revelam tendências de cada época tanto nos conteúdos como nos materiais; as nossas sensibilidades e capacidades; e mesmo situações de vida. Conforme nos tornámos adultos, e mães ou pais, aprimorámos os modos criativos de dispor fotografias dos melhores momentos, sorrisos encantadores, a outras memórias na nossa vida comum, com as nossas crianças juntas. Ao fazê-lo, estamos a passa-lhes esse hábito de fazermos nós mesmos, para aqueles de que gostamos; isso faz passar mais tempo a pensar e a desejar bem às pessoas às quais se dirigem os presentes.
Outra fase das prendas foi a das colecções musicais dos nossos ‘best hits’. Quando eu era adolescente passava muitas a pensar em ‘play lists’ e a desenhar ou fazer colagens para capas únicas de cassetes áudio. Depois continuei a fazê-lo nos anos 90, com CDs;  e na década de 2000 as tecnologias de produção doméstica para filmar, editar e imprimir tornaram-se tão simples e eficazes que passei mesmo a produzir DVDs.
Este último natal, no entanto, a realidade abalou a minha boa vontade e entusiasmo. Os leitores DVD e CD estão em extinção. As cassetes já são arqueologia. Música, dança, cinema, livros, fotografias… são hoje todos conteúdos convertidos em digital, e migram, como MP3s, JPEGs, MOVs, GP3s ou PDFs, de um dispositivo para outro, atravessando milhares de quilómetros pelo cyberespaço ou dando pequenos pulos entre nuvens (a cloud!). De que serve criar um DVD quando as pessoas preferem o vimeo ou o you tube?  Ninguém vai ouvir o CD! A música agora está toda no I-tunes.
Muitas reflexões poderiam seguir-se a esta constatação. Mas neste momento a  minha preocupação é que no mundo imaterial parece que se perdeu interesse no conteúdo a favor do interesse nos dispositivos. E portanto o que interessa como presente não é o filme, a música, ou o livro, esses desvalorizaram significativamente. O que ‘está a dar’ nas compras de Natal é o dispositivo para acedermos aos conteúdos.  Ao desmaterializarem o conteúdo com tanto sucesso, as indústrias corporativas das TIC conseguiram dominar o mundo material com os seus produtos. (Media thought  6/jan/2014-PV) 
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