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Natalia

Bolshoi in N.Am. - 'Don Q' reviews/comments

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Don Q will be danced in the following stops, on the Bolshoi's Fall 2004 tour of North America: Boston, Seattle & Chicago.

Please place your reviews and comments here. Looking forward to them!

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Bolshoi breezes through 'Quixote'

By Christine Temin, Globe Staff | October 9, 2004

"Don Q" is a bravura comic ballet, and the Bolshoi delivered in both departments. Maria Alexandrova, as Kitri, the spirited heroine, was a flame burning through the challenges of difficult choreography she seemed only to laugh at. Alexey Loparevich was an appropriately addled and idealistic Don. Yury Klevtsov was an unimpressive Basil, though, quite overwhelmed by Alexandrova, and technically disappointing.

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Antonicheva is undoubtedly one of the world's great classical ballerinas.

Her Kitri this afternoon was notable for perfect line, style, and taste.

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I also saw Antonicheva and liked her very much. She has a lovely freshness to her as Kitri. She was also technically very on, especially in her turns. Gracheva the night before was a much tougher cookie.

Other nice things about the production - it's not at all fussy. It reminds me of Croce once writing about a production of Paquita being "choreographically bald" - this isn't crammed with steps. The dancers fill them out. The most fun about seeing the Bolshoi in Don Q is you're left with the feeling you're seeing them at their best.

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I very much enjoyed Anna Antonicheva & Dmitri Belogolovtsev -- and, especially, Yulianna Malkhasiants' Act II Gypsy Dance! -- in the Sunday matinee performance. However, as lovely as this production may be, I still feel most satisfied when watching the Kirov-Mariinsky's version. Full review to follow.

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It was a pleasure to visit Boston & attend a ballet at the Wang Center for the Arts, a huge, 1920s former movie palace that now serves as the home of the Boston Ballet. With its opulent red and gold trimmings and baroque ornamentation, not unlike the Bolshoi Theater (or the Paris-Garnier), the Wang must have made its Russian visitors feel right at home!

Alexei Fadeechev restored, then streamlined a bit, the 1902 version of Alexander Gorsky, after that of Marius Petipa. The 1902 Gorsky had been added to and embellished by numerous choreographers of the Soviet period, so that, by 1999 (the year of Fadeechev's restoration/trimming), the 1902 Gorsky could best be seen only at the Kirov-Mariinsky Theater, while Kiev, Novossibirsk, Perm, and other 'USSR' theaters had also added the Bolshoi embellishments, such as the vaudevillesque 'sailor dance' in the Tavern Scene. Had Fadeechev maintained the complete score of Act I and the corps-de-ballet choreography from the Dream Scene intact, I'd give his production the golden crown; alas, he gets second prize behind the Kirov. But, hey, 'second best' behind a Kirov's production isn't all that bad!

Certainly the dancing on view last Sunday at the Wang Center was mostly of a very high order, beginning with the exquisite, long-limbed Kitri of Anna Antonicheva. Unlike the straining of Maria Alexandrova (a ballerina of great dramatic impact who tends to push her limits, technically), Anna Antonicheva's Kitri dances with felicitous facility. Her Act I 'castanet solo' was exciting and ample, without the grotesqueries of gymnastics; the Dream Scene solo floated with technically-secure positions; while the Act III Grand Pas de Deux solo was brisk and oh-so-feminine. Finally -- for the first time in a long time -- a Kitri who cares more about charming her Basil than being offered a contract at Cirque du Soleil!

Dmitri Belogolovtsev's Basil offered wonderful partnering, including numerous one-armed high lifts throughout the ballet, not only at the end of Act I. Belogolovtsev's Basil has much improved since I first saw him in the role, in '99, but his acting remains a bit lackluster and the technique in the Grand Pas de Deux was spotty (especially the opening diagonal of jumps in the solo).On the other hand, he pulled-off an outstanding menage of 'barrell jumps' around the perimeter of the stage during the pdd coda.

Timofei Lavrenchuk looks like the perfect Espada, with his dark handsome looks and flashy 'attitude'! However, his classical technique seemed 'off' on Sunday. The willowy Maria Allash danced Espada's girlfriend in Act I, the Street Dancer, with great flair. It's a shame that much of the music & choreography of this segment of the ballet has been cut in the Fadeechev version.

The Dryad Scene of the Bolshoi is a bit of a let-down, in that, again, chunks of music (especially for the corps) have been excised. Even worse, the intricate formations -- hops and emboitees danced by clusters of ballerinas, in 'canon' fashion -- are simplified here, so that the rococco-like effect is washed out. Also, this seemed to be the most UNDER-populated Dream Scene I've even seen by a major ballet troup...there were maybe 16 dryads on the stage (versus 30-plus at the Kirov). That scene's soloists were fine: young Xenia Pchelkina was a cute Amour, though not quite as charming as the Bolshoi's Nina Kaptzova in the role. Ekaterina Schipulina was a majestic Dryad Queen, lovely at the start of her solo but technically uncrisp as the dance progressed, with a final sequence that eschewed the usual developes-a-la-second into fouettes. [schipulina did simpler pique arabesques into passe pose, instead. We DID see those developes-fouettes at the end of Kitri's dream solo, instead of Kitri's usual diagonal of pique-arabesques/attitude poses.]

Act III included the one dance that, to me, is best performed in the Bolshoi version of 'Don Q' (compared to Kirov or any other troupe): the group 'Bolero' at the start of the wedding scene. Those long, white-lace-flounced gowns worn by the corps ladies are surely among THE most splendid costumes in all of balletdom!

The two female soloists in the Grand Pas were both delightful: Anastasia Meskova (who is best-known as Juliet in the Poklitaru version of R&J) flew through the jete variation, while the dark-haired Olga Stebletsova dazzled in the gentle Waltz, with secure passe balaces.

And what is a great 'Don Q' without the character/national dances? This production -- like the Kirov's -- is replete with fabulous Spanish and Gypsy dances...but none a spectacular as the soulful Gypsy Dance performed by Yulianna Malkhasiants in Act II. Her entire body vibrated with the passion of a deceived gypsy. And each of us in the 1,000-plus audience felt like she was dancing for us, for Malkhasiants has the power to make one forget that there is anyone else on stage, while she dances. Between Yulianna Malkhasiants and her Kirov counterpart, Galina Rakhanova, we have two of the finest exponents of classical-character dancing in the world today (or in any age, I suspect).

Natalia Nabatova

Washington, DC

October 12, 2004

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Wonderful review Natalia, thank you. I saw the Gracheva/Filin Don Q & enjoyed it immensely. Makhasiants led a beautiful Czardas in the opening night Raymonda, but her gypsy is truly amazing & not to be missed.

Ekaterina Schipulina was a majestic Dryad Queen, lovely at the start of her solo but technically uncrisp as the dance progressed, with a final sequence that eschewed the usual developes-a-la-second into fouettes. [schipulina did simpler pique arabesques into passe pose, instead. We DID see those developes-fouettes at the end of Kitri's dream solo, instead of Kitri's usual diagonal of pique-arabesques/attitude poses.]

Allash danced the Queen of the Dryads on Saturday night and I also was surprised that she didn't do the developes-a-la-second into fouettes, until Gracheva did them in her variation.

One thing that has me a little confused about this production. The ones I've seen previously identify Mercedes as "a street dancer" but the Bolshoi program listed Mercedes and the street dancer (act 2) as 2 separate dancers. Based on this I assumed that Mercedes was Espada's girlfriend (act 1 & 2) and the street dancer was the one that tried to seduce Espada with the castanet dance in the tavern, before Mercedes danced on the table.

Can anyone clarify?

Thanks,

Susan

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Alexei Fadeechev restored, then streamlined a bit, the 1902 version of Alexander Gorsky, after that of Marius Petipa. The 1902 Gorsky had been added to and embellished by numerous choreographers of the Soviet period, so that, by 1999 (the year of Fadeechev's restoration/trimming), the 1902 Gorsky could best be seen only at the Kirov-Mariinsky Theater

Thank you for the review, Natalia, but to be fair the current Mariinsky version has, as you know, still some Soviet embellishments as well: the fandango is from Lopukhov, the gypsies dance is from Anisimova and Belsky, and then that fearful oriental dance in Act III is also from Anisimova.

I also find it interesting that the Bolshoi locates the final act in a palace. After all, according to a certain tradition one only wears tutu in court (or in fairytales and dreams, of course) :wink:

In the Russian versions the street dancer and Mercedes (the girl in the long red dress in the tavern scene) are two different characters. In the Bolshoi production there is moreover a spanish dancer in the tavern scene - they have very little in common, except that they all seem to want Espada...

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The Street Dancer and Mercedes were two different roles, and they are sometimes combined in non-Russian productions, especially, as many companies don't have the character dancers to put over the traditional tavern scene. (Or at least there were two roles; I don't remember the names of the characters. Perhaps someone else does?)

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Thank you for the review, Natalia, but to be fair the current Mariinsky version has, as you know, still some Soviet embellishments as well: the fandango is from Lopukhov, the gypsies dance is from Anisimova and Belsky, and then that fearful oriental dance in Act III is also from Anisimova.

Of course, Marc. That's why I wrote that the Gorsky could "best be seen" at the Mariinsky prior to the Bolshoi's 1999 version...but not perfectly so. I did not feel it necessary to tick-off the list of Soviet embellishments remaining at the Mariinsky. Thank you for doing so here.

re. Mercedes-Street Dancer as one role: Does anyone remember the short-lived, post-Baryshnikov ABT version, staged by Vladimir Vasiliev, when the Mercedes character danced throughout the ballet (including the Street Dancer segment)? I believe that Susan Jaffe danced that role for ABT.

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I saw the Vasiliev version for ABT in Chicago--but I'm afraid I remember very little about it except for Vasiliev taking a bow at the end. Wow! More stage "flair" than the rest of them put together and doubled. (And, just for clarification, I saw the opening night cast--and am a fan of ABT.) I know this is off topic, but just the mention of that production was like a madeleine to my memory--I can SEE him coming onto the stage.

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A great story, Drew. Vasiliev is one of those persons who commands a room just by his very presence. It's impossible to not tell that he is 'somebody' when one is in his company, even if you have no idea that he is a great dancer!

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Last night I saw the first Don Quixote performance in Seattle. Josh LaBelle, producer Seattle Theater Group's Executive Director, spoke before the performance. While he always seems genuinely enthusiastic and happy in his introductions, he's been sounding like he's on Cloud 9 with these Bolshoi performances. While on Wednesday he lauded both the Bolshoi and STG house technical crew, last night he announced last night that both crews stayed up over 24 hours to strike the Romeo and Juliet set and hang the Don Q set.

Unfortunately, the one thing that was missing was cast inserts in the program. After the performance, I managed to hunt down a staff member who had a xeroxed copy of the hand-written cast list, and she graciously allowed me to copy it. It's possible that this was the full list that would have been printed, but, sadly, it left off two of Kitri's friends in Act I, who may have also danced the variations in the Grand Pas de Deux, and Amor.

The Production was very clean and non-fussy, down to the fanless Fan Variation in the Grand Pas. I don't know if there is rich mime in any production of this ballet, but after seeing La Sylphide a couple of weeks ago, I really missed it. Where the casting overlapped, I think I saw a re-run of the Boston performance that Natalia described above: a rather blah Basilio by Belogolovtsev -- I wondered why so many of the women were interested in him, when Lavreniuk's Torreador and about half the men's corps were so more vivid -- a Driad by Shipulina that started out beautifully, but faded as it went along, a charismatic but technically sloppy performance by Lavreniuk, and Malkhasiants' fervent Gypsy, a real highlight. I thought Georgy Geraskin, who danced the Act II Bolero with Anna Antropova, had more of a balance between character and technique than either Belogolovtsev or Lavreniuk. Those black tight costumes are so cruel to the men, though, showing off every wrinkle in line, and Basilio lives in them.

Gracheva danced Kitri. I don't know if I've every seen anyone but a rhythmic gymnast who could so easily and crisply hit her nose with her leg in quick develope to the front and hit her ear with her shin in develope in 2nd. I didn't see a strained bone in her body or unproportionate excess, and what I liked about her performance was that it was danced in spirit -- Kitri was rather the filly -- rather than played for bravura. She was going to get her cheers, and except during the curtain calls, never demanded them from the audience.

Although I've never seen a different version, Natalia's description of the Dream Sequence, was right on the mark. I wasn't sure why the corps were there in the first place, except for convention. The formations didn't have any focus to them and were unbalanced; I kept waiting for the dancers to get somewhere, as they looked like they were in transition for most of the scene, and never really created a picture. If the corps doesn't have a unified vision, there's not much for either the idealized Kitri or the Driad to play off against, and while beautifully danced, there was no bloom or resonance in the Dream solo. Amor, who may have been danced by Pchelkina (if that golden blond hair was not a wig), is the only part that "pops" regardless of who is dancing in the background. It was a nice contrast though, among the light-footed, bright Amor, the pristine Shipulina (at least until she faded), and the full-"voiced" Gracheva.

Because I had never seen a full-length Don Q before, I never knew that the Grand Pas had variations in it: I loved them, particularly the soft second variation, danced superbly by Nelli Kobakhidze, another highlight. I hadn't really noticed the women's backs or arms very much until Kobakhidze took her opening pose before her solo, which was a breathtaking moment. The two soloists -- Meskova danced the first variation well -- wore gorgeous lemony-yellow tutus. If Meskova and Kobakhidze were also Kitri's friends in Act I, then the woman in orange (vs. goldenrod), who I think would have been Kobakhidze, also excelled through clarity, but even more so, her musicality.

I still don't love the score, and I'm not sure I would see this ballet very often because of this, but there was one gorgeous except from Act II, and my brain has squished "Gypsy" and "Bolero" so that I can't remember whose music it was. (I thought it came second of the three dances [after Spanish], but I'm also remembering two people. Vapor lock.) I think this is why I wasn't really taken by Gracheva's performance, even though I liked it very much: I didn't think she had much good music to support her. I sat in the First Mezzanine, which meant that the amplification was apparent, and the orchestra sounded better to me in Romeo and Juliet, where the amplification literally went over my head. The conductor was listed as Sorokin, but from afar, he looked awfully like Klinichev, who conducted on Wednesday, although from their bios, they appear to me in the same age range, and perhaps they both were sporting the Conductor's Haircut.

My vote for the most beautiful costume was the Spanish: three tiers of silver gray lace that took on a golden cast under some lights, edged with pewter, and finished with a rose-peach hip sash. It was a close vote with the gypsy's brilliant red floor-length dress with several rows of ruffles and a black underskirt. But those lacy white corps dresses in Act III are really something, too.

In another thread about the Paris Opera Ballet, there was a discussion about how homogeneous the dancers' bodies are. It wasn't so obvious in Romeo and Juliet, but in Don Q I noticed that every woman's legs were slender. Kyra Nichols would not have fit into this group, let along Merrill Ashley, Monique Meunier, Carrie Imler and Noelani Pantastico (PNB), Alison Roper (OBT), Lorena Feijoo (SFB), etc. or any number of more muscled, athletic dancers whose performances I've loved. To think they might have been sent to Ulan Bator or Minsk had they grown up in Russia.

As a warning to anyone buying tickets at the Paramount, the rows of three seats in the First Mezzanine that are on either side of the entrance into the level, are not staggered. I spent the first act with much of downstage right blocked by about two inches of the hair of the woman in front of me, and with the women next to me leaning into my space so that she could see anything. Also, the base in which the railings are anchored block off half the armrest and scrunch the shoulder into wood. After Act I I moved to the last row of the left side section of the First Mezzanine, on the center-most aisle. I had a full view of the stage -- even there had been someone in front of me, the seat was staggered into the aisle, leaving a great sight line -- and plan to ask for this seat in the future.

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Thanks Helene!

In Boston, the friends did not dance the Wedding Variations, and Pchelkina danced Amor with both casts I saw. I also thought Kobakhidze was marvelous - I found Gracheva a bit hard-edged and preferred Antonicheva of the two I saw. Will you get to see more than a single cast?

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Will you get to see more than a single cast?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

No, I'm afraid this will be my only Don Q. I went to the opera tonight, where I heard Kim Josephson's sympathetic and very moving performance of the lead role in Rigoletto. (I spied Francia Russell and Kent Stowell on their way into the auditorium.) Originally, Stepanenko, Gracheva, and Shipulina were cast for three Seattle Kitris, but the schedule was updated with Gracheva, Antonicheva in a Saturday matinee that wasn't on the original schedule and which went over my head, Alexandrova (tonight), and Shipulina tomorrow afternoon. (After seeing Shipulina's Driad, I wonder what she'd be like as Kitri.) You're right about Gracheva being hard-edged; I don't think I would have liked her in Raymonda or Swan Lake. Maybe as Aegina in Spartacus.

Hopefully Sandik, Nyala, Doug and/or Dave were able to see Don Q and will report. Maybe Watermill was able to make the trip up from Portland? One very nice thing was that in his pre-show announcement, Josh LaBelle told people to go see PNB next weekend. It's great to see that arts administrators understand the need for a dance audience in Seattle, not just loyal subscribers to one Company or series.

I'm going to Berkeley next weekend for a quick visit to see one performance of Raymonda. It was originally cast with Stepanenko, but Antonicheva is in the updated cast list, so (knock on wood) I'll get to see her then. Unfortunately, because I'm meeting a friend at the PNB Balanchine Program next weekend, I'll only be able to see one cast. I'm very much looking forward to it, because I love the music to Raymonda, and I would watch paint dry to that music smile.gif

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[You're right about Gracheva being hard-edged; I don't think I would have liked her in Raymonda or Swan Lake. Maybe as Aegina in Spartacus.


I saw Gracheva in Don Q and Raymonda in Boston. I think Leigh's descripton of her as "hard edged" in DQ is right on the money, yet she was smooth as silk in Raymonda. Go figure

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Belated thanks for that nice long review, Helene! Antonicheva's Raymonda is definitely worth a trip to Berkeley. Enjoy!

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The Bolshoi’s Don Quixote (11/11/04) at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago was

a sensual feast with a menu of choreography credited to Petipa with reworkings by various balletmasters with additions, and emendations, and so on. In my view, there is a coherence to all the parts of the production, partly, perhaps, because of the variety of the accretions gathered over time.

By this I mean that the additions and changes may be value-added virtues by reason of providing a broader palette of movement ‘styles’ that set off the classical canon to advantage.

There were dances that I don’t recall seeing in western versions of D Q, that, in the Bolshoi’s version, added contrasts of tempi and mood. One example is the “Spanish Dance” in the tavern scene of the second act, performed by three women: two with prop guitars and the soloist playing castanets. It is slow in tempo and quite unlike the other Minkus set pieces. (A musical addition as well?)

Another example – and I think a wonderful feature of the Bolshoi production-, is the “Gypsy Dance” danced by the charismatic Yulianna Malkhasyants in the gypsy camp scene of the second act. The dance is not just another character dance but a species of ‘folk’ expressionism. Ms Makhasyants registered rapid mood changes in facial expressions with muscular tics in the forearms and hands and neck, wedded beautifully to the melodramatic and lushly orchestrated musical accompaniment. (Who choreographed this dance? I hope Inga can help me here).

Kitri in this performance was the elegant and exciting Ms Shipulina. The buoyancy of her jumps is exceptional. I had seen her once before, earlier this year, when she danced what I thought to be the best Gamzatti of the four or five I have seen.

Her partner Thursday night was Yuri Klevtsov. They made a handsome couple, but perhaps because of size, they did not make the ideal pairing. To me his dancing lacked the range and depth of her work. This is probably a quibble, but it could be said that the roster of Bolshoi women soloists outperform their counterparts in the men’s roster.

Klevtsov seemed too cautious in the completion of some of his pirouette combinations,

and partnering skills sometimes showed timing problems.

Quixote’s Dream section was handsomely rendered as a tableau with no dark corners, in full daylight, and in delicate colors: classicism presented forthrightly. Ms Allash performed vividly as the Dryad Queen, and Ms Shipulina embodied the ideal of the principal dancer as classicist. Xenia Pchelkina was physically appropriate, and technically accurate, as the young Amor. Alexey Loparevich’s elongated figure was eloquent in depicting the locked-in world of hopes and ideals of Don Quixote.

The Bolshoi’s production of this scene is a testament to the power of the classical dance canon to provide authentic art—as well as wonderful entertainment.

So, on to the entertainment of the third act.

The Grand Pas is so well-known and familiar, in its various incarnations around the world, that it is difficult to say anything that doesn’t sound trite (or repetitive). The Bolshoi’s version seemed to me very coherent, and in this performance excellently performed. The extra bonus is the inclusion, with the wedding couple, of the two maids of honor in lemon-colored tutus. (Anastasia Meskova and Nelli Kobakhidze). Ms Kobakhidze, performing the second variation, displayed the virtues one expects from great dancing: clarity, legibility (read musicality), attack that makes you think it’s being done for the very first time, and energy that seems unstoppable-all the while respecting the ‘rules’ of the classic game. She is a star of classicism rising.

Lastly I have to mention the Bolshoi corps de ballet. Their appearance in the third act was to splendid effect. The women in all-white flamenco style long dresses, the men in white jackets embroidered with black threads, white tights, and black broad-rimmed hats fitted close on the head, they personified the incomparable training, dignity, and artistry of

the Bolshoi Ballet.

It was a treat to hear the Bolshoi Orchestra led by P Klinichev in the Auditorium Theatre,

which is reputed to have the best acoustics in North America.

CAST

Kitri Ekaterina Shipulina

Basil Yury Klevtsov

Don Q Alexey Loparevich

Sancho Panza Alexander Petukhov

Gamache Viktor Alekhin

Juanita Natalia Malandina

Pikkiliya Irina Semirechenskaya

Espada Rinat Arifulin

Street Dancer Maria Allash

Mercedes Maria Isplatovkaya

Spanish Dance Maria Volodina, Anna Balukova, Eugenia Rozovskaya

Gypsy Dance Yulianna Malkhasyants

Bolero Anna Antropova, Georgy Geraskin

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I don't think you are quibbling -- I, too, did not think that Shipulina and Klevtsov made a satisfying couple. Partly, he did not look commanding enough. That he was a bit on the short side for her only emphasized this weakness. Perhaps we would not have noticed their respective sizes if he had projected a more forceful presence.

Perhaps another reason is that they did not appear to dance for each other, as I expect lovers to do. Shipulina, particularly, seemed to play to the audience. I find it hard to explain what I mean, but she kept flashing her smile to us instead of Basil. I realize that a certain amount of acknowledgement of the audience is called for, and I imagine it is difficult to keep stepping in and out of character. But I don't care for the "did you see what I just did? Aren't I clever?" grin that I perceived (whether she intended it or not).

(In truth, it wasn't just Shipulina. I noticed many times over, both in soloists and the corps, a kind of a very broad smile that I associate with Miss America pageants and the like. It went beyond the very pleasant "I love to dance and you can just see it" exuberance into something more fake. Anyone else perceive this?)

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