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Theatre of broken dreams; What happens when you put a string quartet, a renowned composer and four Latin dancers in a theatre together? GAVIN ALLEN finds out.


WHEN the boundary-pushing Mavron String Quartet commissioned composer Charlie Barber to explore what the foursome could really do, it produced a whole new experience for everyone involved.

Mavron, taking advantage of an Arts Council of Wales grant, asked the renowned Cardiff composer to produce a score.

When Barber's music was complete the quartet - Christiana Mavron, Katy Rowe, Ben Kaminski and Lucy O'Connor - enlisted Jean Abreu, a specialist in Latin and capoeira dance, to choreograph the work for four dancers. The result is Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

"There are a lot of collaborations going on here, between the composer and ourselves, between the dancers and ourselves and the dancers and Charlie," says Christiana, the quartet's first violin.

"It has been our first big project of this kind and it has taken a lot longer than we thought to come to fruition because we first commissioned Charlie two years ago. The more people you collaborate with the harder it becomes.

"But once we got it into rehearsals everything came together very quickly, the momentum really built up."

When it came to giving Barber guidance on the music, Mavron kept the brief simple.

"We knew we wanted it to be one piece that was an hour long so there wouldn't be an interval, but beyond that it was all quite open," explains Christiana, who has previously performed with Kanye West, Welsh rock band Sibrydion and Katherine Jenkins.

"We wanted him to really explore what a string quartet could do because it hasn't been done very often and we were quite keen to keep the quartet as a focal point.

"But there was always going to be four dancers to interact with the four in the quartet."

Boulevard of Broken Dreams - the title was inspired by the Green Day song of the same name - receives its world premiere at the Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea tonight as the first date of a UK tour which takes in Cardiff later in the month.

So having given Barber a wide-open commission, what will the audience actually see?

"The music itself is not a great technical challenge for us; the challenge was in putting it all together, crossing over into all the different categories of arts," explains Christiana of the quartet, which formed in 2002 and is resident at the Gate Arts Centre in Cardiff.

"An idea which came up in our discussions was that it should be a meeting place where there is interaction between the groups.

"So we have set it in a public meeting place, a town square, where the quartet is supposedly busking and the dancers are passers by. In effect they're strangers who interact with them."

The collaboration has whetted Mavron's appetite to explore further projects on a larger scale, but before the quartet get ahead of themselves, Christiana says they are just looking forward to the premiere tonight.

"I don't feel nervous about it at all," she says with the confidence of a performer who has played for the Queen, Gordon Brown and even actors Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas.

"When we originally formed Mavron it was about not closing any doors. We wanted to work in schools, do recitals, work in pop and all sorts of music. We made a conscious decision to do as much collaboration as possible.

"So we are always keen to push the boundaries and I'm very excited about this project. I think it's going to be great."

Boulevard of Broken Dreams is at Sherman Cymru in Cardiff on Wednesday, February 25. Tickets cost pounds 8-pounds 12 from 029 2064 6900.


PUSHING BOUNDARIES: Christiana Mavron, Katy Rowe, Ben Kaminski and Lucy O'Connor perform Boulevard of Broken Dreams
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 12, 2009
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