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Megan Fairchild to Make Her Broadway Debut in "On The Town"

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I know two people who made small investments in a few Broadway musicals. They weren't theater people and (to the best of my knowledge) weren't plugged into a network of theatrical investors. I don't know if they made a decent return, or even if got all their money back, but they had a blast and felt very proprietary about "their" shows. It may be that the Kagans are trying tap into the kind of investors who want to have a little fun with their investment "mad money" and hadn't realized they could throw the dice on a Broadway show.

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I know two people who made small investments in a few Broadway musicals. They weren't theater people and (to the best of my knowledge) weren't plugged into a network of theatrical investors. I don't know if they made a decent return, or even if got all their money back, but they had a blast and felt very proprietary about "their" shows. It may be that the Kagans are trying tap into the kind of investors who want to have a little fun with their investment "mad money" and hadn't realized they could throw the dice on a Broadway show.

Back in the Day. My third Broadway show was "A Time for Singing", a re-make of the film "How Green Was My Valley". It starred the late, great Tessie O'Shea and Shani Wallis. Donald McKayle did the incredible choreography. He actually choreographed a pas de deux on me and my partner, Sterling Clark. We in the cast were invited to "invest" in the show and many of us did, pooling our money and buying our "shares". I don't know if this was a common practice. Sadly, the show did not run and we lost our "investment", but oh, what a very special show that was!!

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Tapfan - not sure what you mean by "prep school vibe"? care to give more context? tia

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Tapfan - not sure what you mean by "prep school vibe"? care to give more context? tia

NYC Ballet reminds me of that movie Pleasantville. Everything there seems to be so insular and conformist.

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Tiler Peck appeared on Broadway in the "Music Man" when she was 11, so she's going home to Broadway.

I saw her in the NY Phil production of Carousel. She was great. Louise is a mostly dance role but she does act and sing in the chorus.

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Tapfan - not sure what you mean by "prep school vibe"? care to give more context? tia

NYC Ballet reminds me of that movie Pleasantville. Everything there seems to be so insular and conformist.

Interesting point of view Tapfan. I see NYCB frequently and I see a lot of very individualistic dancers. The company has a continuing practice of commissioning new music and does new choreography every year. There also commission art instillations in the theater when they perform (loved by some hated by others). As for singing and acting - they do great with West Side Story Suite. It was Jerome Robbins who set it on the company originally. Gina Pazcoguin is one of the best Anitas ever. Perhaps you see it as insular because company members attend SAB before joining the company (in almost all cases) although many dancers train else where and only spend their last couple of years at SAB.

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I don't know that I would call it insular or conformist, but NYCB does have a more clearly articulated company style than many other ensembles working today, in part because of their relationship to SAB, but also because of their repertory.

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I don't know that I would call it insular or conformist, but NYCB does have a more clearly articulated company style than many other ensembles working today, in part because of their relationship to SAB, but also because of their repertory.

I agree sandik, but having a clearly articulated style does not translate to the "Pleasantville" automaton idea that Tapfan seems to be referring to (unless I misinterpret). Personally I like that NYCB has a distinctive look. I certainly wouldn't describe the company as conformist.

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Conformist is not a word I would use to describe NYCB. They commission new and daring works (sometimes flops, sometimes successful), they use challenging music, they commision art installations. I don't see them as conformist at all.

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NYC Ballet reminds me of that movie Pleasantville. Everything there seems to be so insular and conformist.

Ballet companies are like other organizations and institutions: they have their own social/behavioral norms and implicit and explicit systems, standards, and culture. These things change over time for the same reasons they do in businesses, due to economic pressures, transitions from original founders/owners and establishing members/employees to new ones, growth, shift in focus and product, etc. Ballet companies are ongoing and people stay with them longer than most tap and jazz dancers, who generally are project-based, are employed for a given gig. While I'd expect more conformity in a long-running show, the dancers, like in opera and theater outside the true rep companies, are contracted for stints, some with the limited duration fixed in advanced. The social norms are more fluid. There's no ongoing job with benefits and generally renewed contracts. Being a permanent freelancer requires different life skills and mindset than being a company member, in any profession.

Ballet dançers are more hot-house than most Broadway dancers in general, because, especially for women, they have to choose to specialize in ballet at a much earlier age in order to be considered for the profession, and, despite Allison de Bona's example as a college graduate-turned-professional and Violette Verdy's affiliation with Indiana University and her wide network, very few ballet dancers go to college before an elite professional career: instead they go from ballet schools into relatively stable ballet companies. College, if nothing else, gives people an opportunity to broaden their perspectives and find more to bring into their dancing. It was important enough to Diaghilev to take a handful of selected few, including Balanchine, on an art tour in the off-season, something that expanded the choreographer's horizons.

Ballet technique also emphasizes being pulled up and turned out, and despite Fairchild's earlier training and emphasis on jazz dancing, he's been a ballet dancer every day for a long time, and it could take him a while to shift his weight and style and not look so "clean." I'd expect him her to find his her groove over the duration. He'll She'll be focused on one set role, compared to being in a ballet company where he shemight do four performances at most in any given ballet over a season, perform in a different program every night, be asked to learn a new role quickly and sub in for an injured colleague, and have a day full of rehearsing multiple roles, learning new roles, working to create new choreography, etc.

Edited to add: blushing.gif I got my Fairchild performing in shows threads mixed up. Aside from her brother's jazz training, what I wrote originally applies to Megan Fairchild as well.

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Tapfan - not sure what you mean by "prep school vibe"? care to give more context? tia

NYC Ballet reminds me of that movie Pleasantville. Everything there seems to be so insular and conformist.

Actually several nycb dancers are pretty outspoken in their social media page about politics. Very strong minded and I wouldn't call those views "conformist" at all.

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The SAB specific training is one of the reasons and yes, I know that most major companies have affiliated schools.

And of course, I'm not talking about them having high standards. Who would complain about that? Nor am I talking about uniformity of style. I like that about companies like POB.

I'm talking about the feeling that us outsiders get that the City Ballet/SAB nexus is a very exclusive club that tightly controls who gets into the club, who should care about the club, why they should care or even who watches the club.

It seems that everybody who works or teaches there is only important by way of their relationship to Balanchine.

It's always about Dancing for Mr.B or designing costumes for Mr. B.,cooking with Mr. B., fighting with Mr. B., staging Mr. B's works, marrying Mr. B or picking up Mr.B's cleaning. It's like,"Look at me!, I'm relevant because I had contact with Mr. B!" There's a whole industry that's sprung up for cashing in on having come in contact with his genius.

These folks make up a sort of priesthood in the church of Balanchine and they lay their much-sought-after blessings on the dancers/priests too young to have known Balanchine.

As to their new works, the only ones that seem to matter to the Balanchine faithful are those that come from in-house. Robbins, Peck and Wheeldon are or were all members of the Church of Balanchine.

That thing with the artist and Lil' Buck? Puleez. Horrible pandering all around. Its failure surprised nobody.

And have you seen Peter Martins in the City Ballet Web series with Sarah Jessica Parker? Geez, the man acts like he's the first and only person to ever run a ballet company.

As to Balanchine himself, like Jesus Christ, I have fewer problems with the man himself than I do with some of his followers.

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As to their new works, the only ones that seem to matter to the Balanchine faithful are those that come from in-house. Robbins, Peck and Wheeldon are or were all members of the Church of Balanchine.

One crucial choreographer you left out who belongs to a different nexus: Ratmansky. NYCB works with him regularly. In the past, they even tried to hire him as their resident choreographer. Many of his admirers are also what you call "Balanchine faithful" though I'm sure not all...

The Balanchine faithful more generally? Well I know what you are talking about, but the leadership of the company has not been as insular as your comments would suggest when it comes to commissions and productions. They commissioned two works from William Forsythe and did so considerably before other American companies were regularly performaning Forsythe (has ABT yet danced Forsythe at all?)...They also regularly perform & have at least 2 or 3 times commissioned from Bigonzetti and from Preljocaj--European choreographers well out of the Balanchine nexus and whose works are maintained in the repertory. They also commissioned a work from Ulysses Dove that for a while at least was being regularly revived--they could hardly commission additional works after his death. I will be silent on the one commission from Eifman since I doubt that experiment will be repeated anytime soon. But at any rate NYCB did do the experiment.

Maybe these choreographers are not as admired among some NYCB fans/critics as others, but that can't be held against the company's leadership or director who brought them in and keeps their works in the repertory...

Also at one point NYCB commissioned several works from Tharp, though I believe she is generally admired among those who admire Balanchine/Cunningham.

(Puzzlingly, I remember you asking on another thread why NYCB even bothers with choreographers other than Balanchine/Robbins when they are so great--perhaps you were being ironic and I missed it. That sometimes happens on the internet...)

The company's post-Balanchine turn to increasing the full-length story-ballets in the rep including Swan Lake. Romeo and Juliet, and now the 19th-century Bournonville La Sylphide is certainly not something I think we would have seen if Balanchine were still around.

The milking of personal connections to Balanchine that you dislike seems to me to work in good as well as bad or irritating ways. Companies that lose touch with their heritage/traditions will lose touch with what makes them great and distinctive. I think the Royal Ballet would have done well to cherish its Ashton connections more continuously in past decades. (Don't have a good sense of what is happening there now with Ashton.) And, for example, I don't want NYCB to start dancing Macmillan's Manon.

(Much of the greatness of the great Russian companies comes from the steady continuity of training and coaching from one generation to the next. NYCB has actually been strongly criticized by some of the "Balanchine faithful" for not doing enough with dancers of past generations.)

When a ballet company starts to try to be everything to everyone it ceases to be anything important at all--at the worst, it ceases to be a ballet company at all and morphs into a contemporary dance company. I am delighted that there are other companies with other aesthetics--that there is more to dance than ballet, and more to ballet than New York City Ballet. But, as you can tell, I love New York City Ballet.

That New York City Ballet has a style, an approach, a tradition that go back to its founders--and that it (re)presents those with reverence and sometimes arrogance? I think that's true. I also value what's great about that approach in an institution of such enormous quality and creativity. Above criticism? Certainly not. More insular than the Paris Opera Ballet? or the Mariinsky? Or the Royal Ballet? As institutions--I strongly doubt it.

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agree Drew. If the thought is "insular" implying "insider", "exclusive" or "privileged club and hard to get into", I'd like to add that there are many wonderful schools besides SAB that teach the Balanchine style of dance - PNB, MCB, School of Pennsylvania Ballet, Ballet Chicago, CPYB, BAE, The Jillana School and others that I'm sure I've overlooked mentioning.

Wikipedia describes the characteristics of this method as:

The overall illusion of the Balanchine method is that dancers are utilizing more space in less time, so that speed, height, length and a syncopated musicality are created.

Specific characteristics include:

  • Extreme speed and very deep plié
  • Emphasis on line, with use of unconventional[clarification needed] arm and hand placement
  • Pirouettes en-dehors taken from a lunge in 4th, rather than the conventional plié in 4th
  • Distinctive arabesque line with the hip open to the audience and the side arm pressed back
  • Athletic dance quality

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Puzzlingly, I remember you asking on another thread why NYCB even bothers with choreographers other than Balanchine/Robbins when they are so great--perhaps you were being ironic and I missed it. That sometimes happens on the internet...)

I was indeed attempting to be somewhat ironic. It appeared to me that having such a treasure trove of legacy works at their disposal, many of City Ballet's biggest supporters and fans really weren't interested in seeing anything new. So why waste money and time on new works if you know that the critics and audiences are predisposed to hating them simply for not being Balanchine or Robbins?

One crucial choreographer you left out who belongs to a different nexus: Ratmansky. NYCB works with him regularly

Yes, they almost hired him but let their rival ABT hire him. If he was so great, and City ballet is all about presenting great works, why'd they let him get away?

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Puzzlingly, I remember you asking on another thread why NYCB even bothers with choreographers other than Balanchine/Robbins when they are so great--perhaps you were being ironic and I missed it. That sometimes happens on the internet...)

I was indeed attempting to be somewhat ironic. It appeared to me that having such a treasure trove of legacy works at their disposal, many of City Ballet's biggest supporters and fans really weren't interested in seeing anything new. So why waste money and time on new works if you know that the critics and audiences are predisposed to hating them simply for not being Balanchine or Robbins?

One crucial choreographer you left out who belongs to a different nexus: Ratmansky. NYCB works with him regularly

Yes, they almost hired him but let their rival ABT hire him. If he was so great, and City ballet is all about presenting great works, why'd they let him get away?

Ahhh...I missed the irony--but in a sense that allowed me to respond to your point just as well even if it makes me the 'straight man' smile.png . As I noted on that thread, many NYCB fans like myself view it as essential that the company continue to present new work. Those new works have at times been controversial, especially during the Diamond Project days. Less so now I think.

Regarding Ratmansky: well, what was reported was that the company wanted more of his time than he was willing to give. Fortunately, they haven't let him get away entirely in the sense that they continue to commission and present his ballets including a premier this fall.

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Balanchine created what was said to be impossible in the US: a school and company that was uniformly trained to dance in his unique style. You can see the results of this training in the NYCB performances. Every major ballet company emphasizes the importance of uniformity in training. Companies like ABT are criticized because the differences in their training are obvious to even casual ballet goers. So ...

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One of the things I value about NYCB, especially since I don’t live in NYC, is its ability to jumpstart some pretty vivid conversations – there are very few people in our dancey world who don’t have an opinion about the company, its repertory, its role in the development of ballet and its current position in the field.

I think we’re looking at several different things here, and it might be helpful to sort them out. When Tapfan makes the comparison to Pleasantville (insular and conformist) it’s not clear to me if this is a characterization about the repertory or the workplace. And although I think you can make a case for a causal connection between the two (they are that way because the work they dance encourages that situation) I’m not sure it’s really the truth. All workplaces (indeed all communities, whatever brings them together) have specific cultures, but I think we’re here to discuss the work they’re doing rather than the dynamics of the place they’re doing it (especially since most backstage information is beyond our rules here)

So just thinking about the repertory, it’s not a big revelation that NYCB is still, more than 30 years after his death, really influenced by the work of George Balanchine. But the other major element in the company DNA is their commitment to new work. I was curious about the claim, in the recent film about Justin Peck, that NYCB was a “creative” ballet company, but when I mulled it over I thought that it was another affirmation about their ongoing commissioning. I don’t have any numbers at hand, but it would not surprise me in the least to learn that they’ve premiered more new work made for ballet dancers than any other three companies combined.

Drew mentions several of their commissions from choreographers other than Balanchine above, and I’m sure there are many more, but I think we may be missing a fundamental element here. Yes, other choreographers bring their own tastes and choices with them, which may expand the skills and style of the performers, but for the most part, they are making new dances, using the dancers in front of them. When a choreographer brings an existing work to a new group, those dancers are challenged to, in essence, become other people – to literally walk in someone else’s footsteps. If a choreographer is making a new ballet, like a chef standing in front of a pantry, s/he uses the ingredients they have at hand. For people who’ve seen Ratmansky’s and Wheeldon’s work for NYCB, I would be willing to bet that it reflects the house aesthetic as well as their own.

It’s been fascinating to watch NYCB grapple with this transitional section of their history after Balanchine. Like the Graham Company, they’ve needed to walk a fine line between maintaining the integrity of their style, and resisting the impulse to become a museum. (I wonder if Cunningham’s decision to dismantle his company after his death was influenced at all by seeing NYCB struggle with this challenge.)

I’m afraid this discussion has traveled pretty far away from the original thread – perhaps we should move it over to a different location so that Megan Fairchild and On the Town don’t get swept to the side…

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I agree with the above (sandik's post) with a few caveats. Ratmansky's Namouna in particular did not look like anything I had ever seen anywhere -- NYCB included. Importantly, too, the Wheeldon and Ratmansky works for NYCB seem to have translated very effectively to other companies with very different aesthetics. (The Mariinsky is having success with Concerto DSCH, as the Bolshoi did with Russian Seasons.) Preljocaj's Spectral Evidence by no stretch of the imagination asked for things from Robert Fairchild -- or the other dancers -- that belonged to the 'house aesthetics,' though it certainly made use of his abilities. I thought it worked. (I completely forgot to mention Scarlett whose influences are British and continental: I didn't care for his Acheron but other Balanchine-admirers that I read certainly did. He has been invited back to create a work this fall.)

I have been trying to emphasize not just post-Balanchine commissions (of which there are many, many more than I have mentioned), but commissions from choreographers who aren't in the Balanchine 'sphere of influence' -- but yes, choreographers do draw on NYCB dancers' abilities for sure! Though here, too, the important issue is indeed, as Sandik says, finally the work and not the workplace except perhaps insofar as the latter enables the former to happen. (Insularity on public view? Watch the video of Tsiskaridze pissing all over Christopher Wheeldon at the Bolshoi.)

NYCB has struggled with its post-Balanchine moment, but in some ways I feel that in the last decade or so it has started to resolve many of those issues: finding important choreographers to work with and dancers that even those who remember the Balanchine days (eg Robert Gottlieb) are willing to discuss in the same breath as the greats of the past. I also believe that all companies go through some ups and downs...A great school is one thing that can see it through relatively safely.

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I don't see the company often enough any more to have a deep understanding of all the new commissions, but I think the fundamental element is the "new" -- they are still devoted to the creation of new work. It would be interesting to look at the trajectory of the last 30 years and see how that imperative has directed their development.

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I guess you could call a company that is focused on and has the artistic privilege of working with the resident genius -- or geniuses -- or resident artist insular and mean that as an insult. With so much of ballet rep created by a handful of dead geniuses, some long-dead, it's even more prevalent in modern dance, where most companies are led by eponymous founders or the next generation: Martha Graham, Mark Morris, Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, David Parsons, Jose Limon, Alwin Nikolais, Hanya Holm, Molissa Fenley, and Pina Bausch just off the top of my head. (Some of these companies do more than their founders' rep, but the focus is generally around the founder.) Then there are the ones who did not start the company, but became the core choreographers, where people joined companies to work with them, like Forsythe and Jiri Kylian, and in ballet, John Cranko, Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor, and Kenneth McMillan, for example.

As far as an "industry" around those who can claim to have worked with Balanchine:

  • Many are dead
  • Some have formed their own companies and schools, stage Balanchine's works, teach at SAB, and/or coach, which makes it their day job.
  • The youngest ones to have worked directly with him would be in their 40's, like Peter Boal, who was coached in the role of the Prince in the "Nutcracker" and saw Balanchine when he was in classes periodically. Balanchine died the day he became a corps member. Since Balanchine stopped working extensively with the company in the early 80's, that would make youngest corps members who joined at 17 and whom he trained himself 50.
  • The still living people in their late 60's - 80's, who danced for him when the company was small -- before the move to Lincoln Center and the influx of Ford Foundation kids -- and toured a lot got to know him very well, and many have talked about how much they loved to be around him and how he's influenced their lives to this day. (Jerome Robbins, not so much.)

In ballet, there's a rep, and that rep is coached and passed down. In Russian ballet, there's a lineage by teacher -- Tereshkina's bio lists her as "class of Marina Vasilieva" -- and dancers' personal coaches are as critical as voice or instrumental teachers. In modern dance choreography and coaching is passed down unless the master determines otherwise. Having worked with the person during the creation, revision and coaching process is a great advantage.

Even in what I suppose is your own dance interest, tap, which doesn't have a lot of long-standing rep, I went to the Vancouver Tap Festival last year, and I read the bios of the guest faculty. I found that lineage was considered important enough to advertise:

  • "Christopher [broughton] began dancing at the age of 11, and has danced with The Nicholas Brothers, Savion Glover, Michelle Dorrance, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Jason Samuel Smith and Derick Grant."
  • "[Jason Jonas] trained with Gene Medler"
  • Jumaane [Taylor] has been tap dancing since the age of seven and has studied and performed with many of tap's greats"

If you look at any Flamenco bios, you see the list of people with whom each member of the quadro or ensemble -- dancer, musician, singer -- performed and their artistic lineage.

I think it's a good thing that people still respect Balanchine and that having worked with him and able to teach what he taught them is seen as a positive.

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Absolutely, tap is all about who you worked with -- steps are named after people, and have been passed down in a proprietary way.

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So just thinking about the repertory, it’s not a big revelation that NYCB is still, more than 30 years after his death, really influenced by the work of George Balanchine. But the other major element in the company DNA is their commitment to new work. I was curious about the claim, in the recent film about Justin Peck, that NYCB was a “creative” ballet company, but when I mulled it over I thought that it was another affirmation about their ongoing commissioning. I don’t have any numbers at hand, but it would not surprise me in the least to learn that they’ve premiered more new work made for ballet dancers than any other three companies combined.

It’s been fascinating to watch NYCB grapple with this transitional section of their history after Balanchine. Like the Graham Company, they’ve needed to walk a fine line between maintaining the integrity of their style, and resisting the impulse to become a museum. (I wonder if Cunningham’s decision to dismantle his company after his death was influenced at all by seeing NYCB struggle with this challenge.)

One thing to keep in mind, of course, is that the company commissioned ballets by choreographers other than Balanchine even when Balanchine was alive and in his prime. It may have been Balanchine's company, but the commitment to new choreography was more than just a commitment to new Balanchine (or later, Robbins) choreography. Cunningham's "Summerspace" in NYCB's rep, after all ...

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I think it's a good thing that people still respect Balanchine and that having worked with him and able to teach what he taught them is seen as a positive.

I agree. But I also agree with Sarah Kaufman when she says that those people who love Balanchine and those who are in charge of his legacy, frequently get stuck at worshiping what he made instead of being inspired by it.

To me, that supposed commitment of preserving the old works and creating new ones, seems to be in reality, more heavily weighted towards caring for and re-staging the old.

The most praise of City Ballet these last few years, has come due to the emergence of great dancers, NOT great works.

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The people (artistic staff, teachers, professional dancers, students) I know who love Balanchine are inspired by him and the ballets he left us and hope their efforts live up to the performance quality these ballets deserve but do reserve "worship" for church. Even Alastair Macaulay agrees that NYCB (the one Balanchine company he follows consistently) is performing Balanchine ballets better than ever. That is not being "stuck". As for creating new works - as you rightly say an important part of Balanchine's legacy - Peter Martins should be given credit for contributions to the rep by Wheeldon and Ratmansky most notably and among others. Perhaps I've overlooked those you refer to when you speak of being "stuck" or "worshipping"?

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