‘ACTUS, for Vjosa’ is an artistic production that brought together Albanian and European artists dedicated to the preservation of Vjosa, the last European wild river. The contemporary dance performance was created by the choreographer Gentian Doda, while the music written by ÇezarAliaj was inspired by Bach’s Cantata 106 and by Albanian polyphonic concepts. The performance showed a miniature world, an amorphous, mobile structure with references to the ‘liquid society’ theory.
Vjosa - the last free river of Europe
The Vjosa river has its source from the Greek Pindos and it flows into the Adriatic. What makes this river so unique is the fact that all its main tributaries (Drinos, Shushicë, and Bënça) are free-flowing, and this creates a living network that can’t be found anywhere else in the continent. This area is made up of an vastvariety of different habitats types that shows to the world a unique picture on how rivers in Europe used to be before the era of destruction. So far, scientists have identified that Vjosa hosts around 1,500 species, thirteen of which are globally endangered. Researches believe that there is at least ten times more to be discovered in scientific terms.

Vjosa Natural Park
For more than twenty years, the entire river system has been attacked by hydropower dam projects, and different local and international organizations battled on the preservation of the Vjosa river for almost a decade. Simultaneously to the environmental activists, different studies proved that the Vjosa was an unsuitable candidate for hydropower plants - these manmade interventions would not only irreversibly destroy this natural heritage, but would not be feasible from the financial aspect. After a long and untiring campaign, in June 2022 the Albanian Government signed a commitment to establish Vjosa a national park, which would give to the river the highest level of protection.
The governmental commitment to preserving this natural heritage doesn't include its estuary, the Vjosa-Narta Lagoon, which remains a focal point in terms of biodiversity importance. Due to its geographical position, this protected area functions as a 'migration corridor' for hundreds of thousands of bird species, which not only transit across from different continents, but a considerable part also finds shelter in these territories. While the current plan of the government to construct an airport and a tourist resort within the Vjosa-Narta Lagoon, flight paths and other human interventions would highly impact this natural habitat, exposing these species to immediate threats, and changing irreversibly what today is a haven for different forms of life.

Extraordinary art performance connecting people with the last free river of Europe
Aiming to stress the importance of the preservation of the Vjosa River, Heinrich Böll Foundation, Tirana Office, commissioned the contemporary dance performance as a mean to raise awareness on this important message. This outstanding project could only be realized through the valuable support of our partners: Riverwatch, Euronatur, European Delegation to Albania, EcoAlbania, the Embassy of Germany in Albania.
The world premiere took place in Tirana at the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet on October 24, followed by a second-night show. Both performances were experienced by hundreds of people, bringing together governmental representatives, ambassadors, artists and activists all for the same cause: the preservation of the last free river of Europe. A symbolic performance took place also in Ionnina bringing to attention the need for a common preservation plan between the two neighboring country.

Using the body in movement as our most visceral and natural way of communicating, Doda raises questions about the correlation between humans and nature, and the comprehensiveness of systems that as humans we have developed. While spoken language can have its limitations, contemporary dance is a universal language - it creates conceptual spaces that provoke collective reflection. With dancers falling in and out of patterns, searching and breaking down barriers and perceptions of the body, reversing gender roles and deconstructing other social structures, these kind of performances develop non-verbal discourses which tackle society as a whole.

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Heinrich Böll Stiftung
New Destil Creative Hub, 3rd Floor
Zogu I Boulevard, Tirana

E-Mail: info@al.boell.org