Category Archives: rehearsals

A Few More Thoughts On Choreography; More Good(ish) Classes

D and I are now rehearsing our #Playthink piece.

It’s actually going much better than I expected it to.

As one does, I’ve re-written essentially the entire piece now that I’m setting it on actual people and not just on myself prancing about in the studio and waving my arms to vaguely represent the acro moves.

Initially, I had one vision in mind. Because I was futzing around with it by myself, it involved a lot of ballet.

Now, of course, that has changed. I mean, there’s still ballet: there’s always going to be ballet because, hello, it’s me. That’s kind of what I do, apparently.

But choreography has a way of getting away from you. You begin with one vision, and as you actually create a dance and actually set it on actual people, it transforms.

I suppose that this is because, in a way, a dance is sort of a living thing. It’s a little like having a child (though, of course, on a very different scale) or maybe an elaborate pet. You might think, of a horse, “I’m going to train this horse to be the best cow pony ever,” but the horse might actually not be any good at being a cow pony. It might turn out to be a dressage beastie or something else[1].

  1. My philosophy on training horses was very much shaped both by my childhood trainer and also by the trainer of my friend’s lovely Arabian gelding, which began life as what the Arabian show world in the US calls a “park horse,” morphed into what the Arabian show word in the US calls an “English pleasure” horse, did a brief stint in Arabian-show-world western pleasure, and then eventually found his calling as an endurance racer. Basically, the lady who was responsible for training the horse felt that you needed to figure out which discipline suited the horse, and then train it to be as good as it could possibly be at that discipline. I think that’s a good way to do it.

Anyway. I digress.

So this dance is now almost a steady stream of rather-balletic acro and physical theater, and I’m okay with that. One of my goals was to build a dance that tells a story, and in this case, the story is kind of funny and implausible, and acro and physical theater are good ways to tell it.

I’m not going to try to force this dance to be something it isn’t. I have an entire lifetime in which to craft ballet pieces on ballet dancers (I keep joking that I have this entire three-act ballet in my head, now I just need about fifty dancers and a million dollars or so to get it off the ground … but, really, I do have an entire three-act ballet in my head, and it’s taking up a lot of space!). Right now, I’m working with one ballet dancer (me!) and one Denis, and that presents its own set of challenges and limitations.

Honestly, in creative work, it’s so often the limitations that free us to innovate (just as necessity—or, just as often, laziness—gives birth to invention).

The neat part is that this has led us to inadvertently create a new acro move. I mean, probably someone, somewhere has done it before, but I’ve never seen it. It happens to be one that requires that the flyer have a legit center oversplit (among other things), so probably there are a lot of people who can’t do it. Bony impingement is real, it’s just not something that I experience.

Anyway, the sequence involves moving from this:

stag

Kind of, erm, scorpion? thing…

…to this:

stag-x2

Double stag…

…to this:

superman

Superman? Deep sea dive? Front balance? Limbs bird?

…via returning to a standard vertical candlestick, then opening to a straddle and rolling down onto the base’s feet, and then rotating your legs back and around into the position above (the arms also have to do a thing, obviously).

The same basic end could be approached by moving from the vertical candlestick into a pike candlestick and lowering both legs down that way, but I don’t think it would look anywhere near as cool.

Annoyingly, when I snagged these screenshots, I completely failed to get one of the straddle transition. At the time, I think I was like, “A still photo of this isn’t going to impart any useful information.”

Anyway, you really have to have a perfectly flat straddle for this particular sequence so you don’t just rip your legs off, because your hips take a lot of your weight in the middle of the transition. Basically, if lying face down in a center split feels stretchy, this isn’t the sequence for you.

You also kind of need really good turnout in order to do the rotation bit.

The fact that D literally cannot straighten his legs in an L-base also means that I kind of drop myself onto his feet. Eventually, I’ll reach a point at which I can do a complete smooth rolldown whilst upside-down in a full center split, which will make things a little easier, but right now there’s a gap between the end of my smooth rolldown and the end of Denis’ range of motion (because my core strength is still only pretty good, and not completely awesome).

I wanted to use a sort of grand rond de jambe as an exit, but that also takes more adductor power than D has right now. If I bring my downstage leg to second, then rond it over, the force makes his right leg (which supports my left hip) shift, and I fall off 😀

We’ll get it eventually, but not in the next two weeks.

So there’s that.

Anyway, classes were good-ish yesterday and today.

Yesterday’s, in fact, was fairly lovely. Today’s was our first Advanced Class with JAB (OMG, his initials are seriously JAB!!! XD), who really does actually give an advanced Advanced Class.

On the upside, I’m finally (FINALLLLLYYYYYY) jumping again for real: grand allegro and everything. Cabrioles with turny bits, even (though I think I kept turning them into some kind of cabriole-scissor hybrid and landing on the wrong leg).

On the other hand, possibly because I went to a party last night and didn’t get to sleep ’til almost 4 AM (and then had to wake up and eat a sandwich, which was surreal because I was still pretty tipsy and more than half asleep), my brain was for the birds today.

I struggled because there were gaps in my recall of Every. Single. Combination. once we left the barre. The bits that came off, though, mostly went pretty well (except for a weird disaster in adagio during which I basically fell off my leg and then couldn’t get back on because gravity is the worst thing sometimes).

I also hit up a new class at Suspend, which is basically floorwork for acro.

You already know how much I love floorwork, soooooo…

Anyway, we got to break out our improv for the last 10 minutes of class, which resulting in some video that’s party really cool and partly like WHY DO YOU KEEP NOT COMPLETING THE MOVEMENTS WITH YOUR ARMS, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.

But, anyway, here are a few nice shots from this morning’s video, just because I like them:

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Also, I feel like in the arch picture, my butt looks like a couple of angry badgers having a fight. Muscular angry badgers, though.

The tape, by the way, is just there because a tree stabbed me in the foot yesterday :/

Anyway, I was being annoyed with myself for not making the effort to do quadruple turns today, and then realized that I’ve somehow, like, sideswiped my ballet goals without realizing it. Like, basically, I’ve made a significant dent in them and didn’t even notice.

Basically, one of my major goals for this year was to nail down reliable triples and unreliable quadruples, basically. And, bizarrely, I have achieved that goal. I had this weird epiphany on the way home from class yesterday: I realized that, like, a year ago or so, even doing one little triple turn more or less by accident was the most amazing thing ever.

And now I’m like, “Meh, triples, yawn,” when I don’t try for quads.

So, basically, I need to pause and appreciate how much progress I have made.

For what it’s worth, I’ve also got turns in second sorted. They’re not always beautiful (or, let’s be honest, even pretty), but I can always do them. Just not always sixteen of them.

So, yeah. There you go. I feel like I’m “back,” more or less, right now.

Of course, Choose Your Own Intensive begins Monday, soooo… . .  .

Monday, Monday: Can’t Trust That Day

We threw a little viewing party last night, and I finally watched our video from Spring Collection.

There were a few WTF moments and a few really beautiful moments. On the balance, the rest was okay, especially given our highly-compressed rehearsal schedule. I’d say that analysis applies both to the entire group to me individually. It’s worth noting that essentially everyone’s WTF moments happened at different times, and the overall effect was surprisingly polished.      

For my part, I was at my worst right of the gate: I came in too hot, and you can definitely tell. The first sauté arabesque turned into a bad saut de chat, and while the sauté arabesque that leads off the “arrow” was nice, I failed to failli through and the landing was fugly. Like, I started to relax the working leg to tombé onto it, then just didn’t even really bring it through. Eh.

I was at my most mind-bendingly mediocre in the tombé-coupé-balloné-sus sous part, during which my legs looked beautiful but my arms were way too far back and my shoulders creeped up. I didn’t know about the giant hat yet, then.  The average of these two things —beautiful legs and feet, bad arms —is a flavor of mediocrity that must be highly specific to dancers who, as kids, weren’t into being beautiful and lyrical, but instead wanted to master the explosive jumps. 

I will say, though, that your average person-in-the-street would not be able to pinpoint what, exactly, I was doing wrong. They might spot that something looked a little off—might even say, “The boy looks tense.” They’d be right, really: I was tense. That’s why my shoulders and arms were so weird. I was convinced that I was going to eat Marley at any moment, since that part follows on the tail of the part in which I threw a shoe.        

Meanwhile, your entry-level balletomane would be able to identify the problem precisely—but that’s neither here nor there. 

I was at my best, meanwhile, throughout the Homage to Apollo/Balanchine Noodle Experiment segment, in which I suddenly turn into this lovely danseur who seems to know what he’s about. I—who once despaired of every figuring out what to do with my arms at all, ever—do these beautiful, lyrical, expressive things with my arms whilst partnering four girls who, for their part, also look lovely. 

The turn afterwards morphed into a kind of really high, lovely rond en tournant thing. According to D, if you don’t know that’s not what’s supposed to happen, it looks quite nice, though the finish was iffy—I gave it too much force and had trouble checking my momentum >.< I basically prepared for a normal turn in second, but gave it enough force to launch a rocket and, for some reason,  brushed my leg up way, way too high.

The Apollo jump, meanwhile, was higher than I thought (which makes me wonder how high it would have been if I hadn’t been paranoid about missing shoe situation) and acceptable. Not brilliant, but technically sound, and nice enough.

At the very end of the dance, I think I looked a tiny bit lost, though that may be because I kept, for some reason, turning my head too far in these bits that should have in profile. The movements, though, were nice enough. 

There’s a lot of improvement over last year’s video from Lexington: like, I can watch this one without wanting to crawl under a rock. The biggest difference is that I carry my arms and upper body so, so much better. I don’t keep dropping my arms and desperately searching the middle distance for … something[1].

  1. The fact that I didn’t run myself into the ground in the dress rehearsal probably helped, there.   

In the Spring Collection video, there’s only one spot in which I did entirely dropped my arms, and it’s because I had to shimmy through a traffic jam on the way from the tombé-coupé-balloné-sus sous bit to the Changing of the Trains bit. I mostly managed to stay one step ahead of the weird things that inevitably happen onstage, but not that thing.

As a performer, I’m learning to adjust on the fly the same way that you do in the pack in a bike race. I think I’ve come a long way this year. 

~

That said, I still have bad days and bad classes. Today was one. I’m having a wicked bout of body-image issues right now. I didn’t stretch after rehearsal yesterday, and I felt it all through class. I couldn’t get my brain to engage. I felt like I couldn’t move or engage all the things or maintain placement.

In the other hand, I got through little jumps and the first petit allegro without any major complaints from my foot.

In the long run, I’ve at this long enough now to know the taste of a plain old bad day. Although there’s a small part of me that’s loudly freaking out (you know the drill: worst dancer ever, no business dancing, etc), the rest of me is basically like, “Calm down, Felicia.”

Like: it wasn’t a wolf last time, it isn’t a wolf this time, so keep yelling if you want to, but we’re gonna get back to herding our sheep over here.    

This week, we’ve got a bunch of late rehearsals; we’re basically running the show until we can do it our sleep (ah, tech week). Orpheus opens on Friday, runs for three shows, and I’ll be down to one performance to rehearse for the time being.

Then it’s on to summer, as unbelievable as that is.  

~
PS: if we get permission to post the ballet video somewhere and everyone’s okay with it, I’ll stick a link out here.     

Memories … In the Corners of My Mind

Here’s how I memorize ballet:

  • The Mark: Okay. Okay. Oh, crap! Wait, what? Okay. Maybe this? Okay. And okay!
  • The First Run:Okay. Okay. Okay. Wait, what? Okay. Maybe this? Okay. And okay!
  • The Second Run: Okay. Okay. Okay. Wait, what? Okay. Okay. Okay. And okay! 
  • The Third Run: Like a Boss, Like a Boss, Like a Boss, Like a Boss, etc. 
  • Next Rehearsal:Like a Boss, Like a Boss, Like a Boss, Like a Boss, etc. 

Here’s how I memorize modern*:

  • The Mark: WTF, even how, but what, can I just-, where do I, how do I, what do I, WTF
  • The First Run: okay, even how, but what, can I just-, where do I, okay, what do I, WTF
  • The Second Run: WTF, okay, but what, can I just-, okay, how do I, what do I, okay
  • The Third Run: okay, okay, can I just-, where do I, okay, what do I, okay
  • The Next Rehearsal: okay, okay, okay, where do I, okay, what do I, okay
  • The Rehearsal After That: “Are we sure we learned this dance already?” 

Modern: the struggle is real. 

(Also: Autocorrect: the struggle Isreal.)

“And then she was like, ‘No, it’s up, flick down, swirly, and contract!’ and I was like, ‘I can’t even remember my own name right now.'”


*Okay, so I’ll own up to a little hyperbole, here.   

Modern, Rehearsal, Thursday Class, Shadowy Cabal Ops

Modern today felt good. It was just me, and LF gave me a cool visualization thing to start with. We did lots of floor work and work with using weight and the head-tail connection to move through space. Very cool stuff. 

At first my legs were like, “NO. NO, NO, NO. Nope. Screw you, buddy.” I’m experiencing the kind of achy, fatiguey weirdness that I have when my hormone levels are more out of whack than usual (read: when I’m essentially running on empty), which probably explains it. Seeing an endocrinologist is definitely in the plans for … meh, some time this year. 

That said, the legs got over themselves by the of class, and I feel it was a good class overall. I finally admitted to LF that I get stressed out about remembering modern choreography, and she told me not to worry so much about it. On the last run of our final combination, I didn’t. Oddly enough, I remembered way more of it than I thought I would.

Dance Team was awesome today. They did some really good and really original work, and AS and I were really impressed. My own rehearsal also went well.  

Ballet with BW was partly a private class—one of the owners of studio was with us much of the time, but had to pop out now and then to take care of admin things. Such is running a business! 

Class was very intense—in a good way, as always. Interestingly, I got the exact same physical correction from BW tonight that Killer B me yesterday (or, well, one of them…). Obviously, my shoulders, neck, and chest are a hotbed of ballet problems right now.

I’ve realized that, too some extent, this grows out of a deeply internal focus. When I’m working hard, I to draw into myself mentally—and, it would seem, physically. I’m working on it, though!

Curiously, though, my legs had overcome the morning’s meh-ness … which is good, because I would have died of the rond de jambe combination alone, never mind the fondu and the grand battement, if my legs had continued to suck.  The fondu/adagio, in particular, was challenging: slow fondu, slow relevé, slow fondu, extend avant then fondu attitude, hold forever, extend, sus-sous, continue pattern inside leg back, etc. The pace was what made it hard—it’s that combination of precision, restrained power, and grace that makes your blood boil at adagio tempo. 

Speaking of grand battement, I realized that I haven’t been leading with the heel when closing from the back. It starts that way, then gets lazy in the last inch or two, which is no good. It makes for a lazy fifth and, over the course of the combination, works the supporting leg loose. I mentioned that to BW, and he gave me an extra set to the back only (though still finishing with plié-passé-attitude devant) to sort it.

We also did the dreaded Kneewhacker Turns, which went better than usual. Interestingly, I did whack my knee quite resoundingly once. It didn’t particularly hurt, but startled the heck out of me.  I didn’t do it again, that’s for sure 😀 And, in fact, The Kneewhacker Turns that followed were whack-free. 

At center we tendued (with turns) and then drilled double turns from fourth and second. BW had many thoughts my turns, all of which tie into problems I’ve been attempting to solve. My spot wasn’t as slow as it was the other day, except when I was being afraid of the Kneewhacker. 

I called it a night after a nice waltzy combination across the floor. My toe had started complaining a little, so I decided to take the conservative route. Little jumps Saturday, maybe, and we’ll see how it goes from there.  

After class I my fellow Bike Commuter Cabal operatives for a drink and a late supper. Ben and Jenn Folsom were in town, a rare treat for all of us. It was good to catch up with my bike peeps! 

D took one look at this and said, “No one would ever guess which one of you is a dancer!” 😀


    

20-Second Photo Post :D

This is us with our fabulous impresario:  

Alllll the dancers!

… BG told me to be a good boy and arrange my knees croisé 😀

… And this is me goofing off my dressing room tonight:

…I hold this exact pose for like 30 seconds at one point during the dance. Okay, so it’s prolly not *really* that long, but it feels like forevar. Also, try not to cross your legs this much in arabesque a terre, because it’s sketchy as heck. I see my supporting arch rollin’. I’m hatin’.


My right hand is essentially behaving, but my left hand is like, “Um, Don Quixote? Maybe? Just a little?” 

Tomorrow, WE DANCE! 

You Guys, This Is really Happening

OMG OMG OMG

This is how they assign you your Ballet Spirit Animal.

OMG OMG OMG

I am, in fact, about as tired as I look in this shot. Heckin dark circles doin me a concern.

OMG

This is actually the girls’ changing room, where we all hung out after we got changed because mine is tiny.

That is all.  

Tech Week Rehearsal #2

Tonight we ran the dance in the big studio downtown. It’s literally twice as big (at least) as the smallest studio at the school, where we rehearsed on Monday.

As such, we totally lost our spacing and the timing went crazy. The Apollo jump didn’t come off because there was a Siren directly in my flight path (in a moment of glittering wit, I think I literally said, “Oh! You’re there!”) and spazzed into some mutant pas de chat Italien.  

I at least made it to the right spot at the end, though. So there’s that.

The second run was a lot better. We’d adjusted to the space; we knew roughly how fast we had to run and far traveling steps could travel (tl;dr: FAR). 

I hit the turn in second and the Apollo jump dead on, though doing so made me realize something about my brain operates when I’m performing: I click into a mode in which my mind is roughly one step ahead my body. 

This works brilliantly for the choreography that I have down pat, but it’s a bit problematic with new stuff, especially details. 

Like, the arms on the turn and the Apollo jump are hella specific and pretty important, and I have literally no idea what I did with them. I mean, I know I got them up, but whether I kept up and opened after is a major blank spot my proprioceptive “video.”    

On the other hand, I’ll have time to work on that and adjust tomorrow and Friday if necessary. It’s the single newest piece of the dance, so a little repetition will help. 

The girls keep commenting on how I never get a break the dance—how I’m forever dashing from one end of the stage to the other. Before tonight, I didn’t think I actually dashed around any more than they did, but dancing the in a much bigger space me realize that I do, in fact, travel a lot. 

In fact, in the big studio, I really had to drop the hammer to make it from one sequence to another.

Anyway, overall, I think we did all right, under the circumstances. 

Tomorrow and Friday we’re in the theater. Evidently the stage is a little smaller than the studio, so we should be to adjust. 

Honestly, the hardest part for me is judging exactly when to run out of the wings. I need to make it roughly a third the way the stage before my sauté arabesque. 

Anyway, I’m excited about our dance in the theater tomorrow. For now, though, I’m going to roll my legs again, eat something, go to bed.     

Today I Learned… 

…The Apollo jump (which I had seen, but as far as know had never done) and the last remaining piece of our dance, which is mine alone and involves a turn in second and said Apollo jump.

That’s about all of it: we finish the Noodle Experiment, I back away from the girls and throw in a turn in second, then I pause for a second and when everyone else is essentially running upstage, I do the Apollo jump downstage, land it, collect myself, and run a few more steps to my place for the end of the dance. 

We might change up the first partnering bit, though we might not. We’ll see. I like the change that T and BG worked out, but it’ll be a question of whether the remaining two girls from that group are okay with it.

I’m fine either way. They’re worried about kicking me. 

I mentioned that if they kick me, it’s probably my fault. That’s kind of how partnering works for boys:

  • If the girl kicks you, it’s your fault. 
  • If you kick the girl, it’s your fault. 
  • If the girl smacks you in the face, it’s your fault. 
  • If you smack yourself in the face with the girl, it’s still your fault. 
  • If you drop the girl, it is Definitely Your Fault (and you will never live it down). 

FWIW, yes, this is intended to be funny but it’s also largely true. If you’re dancing the (traditionally) male role, part of your job is being in the right place at the right time and accounting for glitches, because the person dancing the other part has enough to worry about already. You adjust. 

And if she stops dancing, turns around, and punches you squarely in the nose? 

That is also Definitely Your Fault, unless it’s Because Ancient Aliens. 

~

PS: I was wrestling with keeping my waterfowls in a linear array in the turn from second because ATTAAAAAAAACK!, and BG was like, “Keep your chest up and think of it like … a hammer throw, only your foot is the hammer.”

Bizarrely, this worked really hecking well. 

Important note is that you still have to keep the working leg hella engaged, especially if you have sick mobility in your hips. If you think of a track & field person winding up for a hammer throw, though, they stay really tight basically the whole time. 

Roll The Tape

I am having a terrible time focusing on Things That Aren’t Ballet today, so I’m taking a few minutes to write (what I hope is) a quick post about video.

Historically, I’ve only very rarely managed to snag video of myself dancing. The rehearsals for our upcoming performance have dramatically changed that, and they’ve made me think that it really wouldn’t kill me to spend a few bucks on a GoPro or something similar, because video is actually a really stellar learning tool for dancers.

Basically, video allows you to see what you habitually do wrong. If you, like many dancers, are naturally hypermobile and thus can’t always feel things accurately, seeing them can really help.

Watching all this video, I’ve noticed a couple of patterns of my own.

First, when I get tired, my arms just … ugh, I don’t even know what to say about them:

apollo-with-arm-problems

It’s worse than that. They’re dead, Jim.

This is from the beginning of the Balanchine Noodle Experiment. My arms are just … what. I don’t even know. Like a straight line, but a lazy straight line, with no presence(1).

  1. It could be worse, but “could be worse” isn’t really what we’re striving towards in ballet, am I right?

Presence is really rather immensely important to this moment; so much so that BG gave me a specific note about it when we were first learning this bit.

Meanwhile, my hands, in an effort to not be like:

DON QUIXOTE!

…have simply dripped off the ends of my wrists. Feh.

At least my shoulders are down?

The other thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve developed a habit of dancing swaybacked. I don’t really have a good screenshot of this, though you can kind of detect it in the shot above. Check out the front line of my body: it’s a perfect curve, like a segment of a circle, because I’m standing with my pelvis tilted too far forward.

I could probably get a decent screenshot if I was a more patient human being. I’m not.

Anyway. I actually know why I’m doing that—it’s an over-correction from a different problem, in addition to being an occupational hazard of being a hypermobile dancer.

Point is, I can’t feel it, so—just as with my wrists forever being like…

\_____O_____/*  

*proportionally speaking, my hands are not this big

…until I saw a picture and realized that they were doing that—being able to see it really helps.

When I consciously correct for the swayback thing, my turns are about 1,000,000 times better (which suggests that I’m using pretty small units of measurement to grade my turns, to be honest :P).

When I don’t, the middle of my body gets up over my leg(2), but the part from roughly the shoulder-blades (or, on really bad days, the navel) on up stays behind the axis.

  1. Every time I hear or write this phrase, the little earworm that lives in my auditory cortex goes, “GET UP OVER THAT LEG … AND TURN ‘TIL YA FEEL BETTER!” and then that plays on repeat for like an hour

Likewise, it sometimes causes a wiggly hip thing that I find completely revolting.

Anyway, regular work on my core should help correct for this, and I’ve rather committed myself to Pilates on Sunday afternoons (though one class per week probably won’t cut it, so I need to make myself do it at home, too).

The other nice thing about video is that it lets you see the things you’re actually doing well. The rep group is, as a whole, on top of the beautiful lines. I jump well (but, like, I kind of knew that?). When I nail an arabesque, I nail it.

flight

An itty-bitty upstage saute arabesque. Still a little swaybacked (and my shoulders have crept up a bit, which also happens when I’m tired), but the lines are decent.

So, basically, the whole point is that video is great for sorting out some of the details you never notice when you’re in class or in rehearsal because you’re too busy, you know, dancing.

I hope if the rest of the group should stumble upon my blog, they won’t mind that I’ve stuck a couple of screenshots up here. I’m guessing they probably won’t, since you can’t tell who anyone is, including me 😛

Balanchine Noodle Experiment FTW

Tonight we added Apollo-y things and something I’m calling a Balanchine Noodle Experiment.

If you’re familiar with Balanchine’s ouevre, you probably know what I mean: those things where a flock of dancers basically ties itself into moving a Celtic knot?

Basically this, but with more heads and feet. (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Anyway, I’ve always thought those were cool (even back when I didn’t like B-style because I hadn’t seen it done well).

So that’s the kind of thing we’re doing—with partnering in the mix—and it’s hella cool.

We’re basically two weeks to launch now, which is really exciting.

Tomorrow, modern and BW’s class(1). 

  1. I still haven’t found my effing jump rope, blergh; I’m just going to buy a new one. It won’t kill me to have a couple. 

Tonight, sleeeeeeeeeep. 

~

PS: I was a brainless mess in Killer Class, but evening class went brilliantly. Some light & lovely turns to combat the sheer badness of this morning’s turns. 

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