Here and now

“translating” a live artistic experience for children into Zoom

Keywords: critical reflection, zoom, communication through arts, shared experiences



Companhia de Música Teatral’s (CMT) performing pieces are communication experiences that often involve a high degree of interaction between performers and audiences. Such is the case of a set of small musical-theatre pieces called PaPI (Portable Play to Play). These are multidisciplinary performances where artists explore the common ground between art and playfulness, in a continuum that involves music, dance, theatre and visual arts. They aim to enable younger ones, families and educators to find different poetic meanings in an atmosphere of shared time and space. One of such pieces is PaPI - Opus 8, which was premiered in 2019 and was supposed to tour throughout 2020. Due to the pandemic, many of the performances were canceled. New paths had to be discovered, and the Zoom video-conference platform was chosen as an alternative. A new version of the piece was developed, called PaPI – Opus8.z.



This paper will focus on necessary adaptations of the piece imposed by the limits of the platform, as well as exploring what CMT chose to maintain, and what they chose to change. It will also reflect on the different audience behaviors when watching a performance live or through Zoom. 



A commonality between the different CMT productions is the focus on blurring of the boundaries between artist and audiences, to transform a performance (one-way) in an experience (omnidirectional). To enhance feelings of co-presence and communication. PaPI – Opus 8 was designed by keeping these aims in mind. The main challenge to adapt it to Zoom was the need to maintain the sensation of a shared time and space between the performer and the audience. Many moments of interaction and dialogue were spread throughout the piece. These moments aimed to show the audience that even though they weren’t in the same “here”, they were in the same “now”.



What was apparently lost by the distancing (the notion of a shared space) was retaken little by little with each interaction between the performer and the children.  This sense of connectedness is inherent in live performances but needs to be “artificially” reinforced when using a platform such as Zoom. Nonetheless, the limitations of the platform also allowed CMT to lean on using webcams as different points of view into the fantastical world the piece’s character inhabits. These methods enabled the performance to elicit surprise, an essential element of artistic performance.


Final considerations

The adaptation of Opus 8 to a Zoom performance was in part impelled by the resolve to fight the restrictions on the quality of shared presence imposed by the confinement. The focus was on maintaining and feeding the communicative impulse that accompanies us from when we are babies until adulthood (Dissanayake, 2002; Malloch & Trevarthen, 2010). This impulse is present in all children, and should be fostered whenever possible, by creating shared artistic experiences that enable moments of surprise and, subsequently, growth. No Zoom performance can substitute sharing the same physical space, but it can be a valuable tool for when that shared space is not possible to obtain.

Author Biographies

Jorge Graça, CESEM - NOVA-FCSH

JORGE GRAÇA is currently a Musical Sciences PhD student at NOVA FCSH. His research is focused on Community Music. He obtained his master’s degree in Music Teaching (Saxophone) at the University of Aveiro (2016). He taught Saxophone, Chamber Music and Electronic Music at the David de Sousa’s Music Conservatorium in Figueira da Foz from 2014 until 2020. In the area of Ethnomusicology, he collaborated with the process of registering Cantar os Reis of Ovar in the national intangible heritage matrix, in tandem
with other researchers from INET-md (University of Aveiro). He’s a saxophonist and composer and has toured the country with the Noscalla Saxophone Quartet, of which he is a founding member. Currently he focuses on solo electronic music projects and technology-mediated performance under the moniker of Fauxclore. He has been collaborating with Companhia de Música Teatral in artistic and educational projects such as Poemário, Pianoscópio, O Céu por Cima de Cá and Aguário.

Paulo Maria Rodrigues, INET-md - Universidade de Aveiro | Companhia de Música Teatral

Paulo Maria Rodrigues is a composer, performing musician and educator. After a PhD in Applied Genetics he resumed earlier music studies and studied opera and composition. His work as an educator started with composing/directing music theatre pieces for children in Musiworks, London, where he was also, an assistant at the Baylis Programme at ENO. Around 1998 he co-funded the Companhia de Música Teatral, which allowed the creation and presentation of several original projects within the realm of Theatrical Music, namely pieces for toddlers and children, interdisciplinary projects with an emphasis in technology and artistic projects aiming at the use of music as a tool for human development. From 2006 to 2010 he was the coordinator of the Education Service at Casa da Música, Porto. He devised a vast program of original musical activities for a broad range of audiences and using diverse approaches to music making/creating/listening/knowing and directed several interdisciplinary artistic and community projects He has presented his academic and artistic work worldwide. He was Advanced Research Associate at the Planetary Collegium and since 1999 is a Professor at DeCA, University of Aveiro.

Helena Rodrigues, CESEM - NOVA-FCSH | Companhia de Música Teatral

Helena Rodrigues is Assistant Professor at Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas – Universidade NOVA de Lisboa and the founder of Laboratory for Music and Communication in Infancy of the research unit CESEM at the same institution. She has been the organizer of multiple innovative initiatives, as diverse as the Bebé Babá Project and the annual International Colloquium Arts for Childhood and Human and Social Development.

The author of a number of publications of different kinds, she introduced in Portugal the ideas behind the theory of musical learning by Edwin Gordon.

Colwyn Trevarthen has been another strong infuence on her work. She has been practicing on voice and body searching for organic and primary ways to communicate. Aiming to improve artistic practices for infancy, she has been developing innovative approaches to training that she defines as “opening the gates on communicative musicality”.

She was a Research Fellow of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts. She has got several prizes, namely the American Club Award and a Santander prize for academic excellence. She is the artistic director of Companhia de Música Teatral, a group that has specialized in creating artistic and educative projects that have music at the root of interdisciplinary practice. She coordinated Opus Tutti, a project that aimed to create and implement good practices in community for infancy and early childhood. Currently, she coordinates the GermInArte Project which main goal is to design and experiment musical and artistic training addressed to the early years. She is often invited to lecture and give workshops over the world in the topics of early chidhood education, music development, music learning theory, music as a tool for social and human development and arts for infancy.


Dissanayake, E. (2002). What is art for? Seattle, Washington: Univ. of Washington Press.
Malloch, S., & Trevarthen, C. (Eds.). (2010). Communicative musicality: Exploring the basis of human companionship (1. publ. in paperback). Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.