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Olga Smirnova

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I’ve time at the moment to do video watching and there’s so much of beauty and interest that it’s hard not to keep writing. When I reflect on all the beauty that a day can offer, thinking about and watching (with videos) these amazing artists can be at times a real highpoint because of all the heart touching warmth and appreciation that I feel.

 

A couple years ago when I started noticing Olga Smirnova it was usually in comparison to the Mariinsky’s Oxana Skorik at topics focusing on Oxana Skorik. For the moment the emphasis has shifted but the comparison remains compelling since I see them both as remarkably beautiful artists pursuing parallel carriers.

 

Olga Smirnova, I feel, could be one of history’s greatest ballerinas, perhaps already is. What makes her so special — Dimension.

 

But there’s something else — Pure Beauty of Dance. In this regard I feel that Ulyana Lopatkina may also be one of history’s greatest ballerinas, but the impact and recognition are much different. In the same regard I always return to watch Oxana Skorik and she always manages to hold her own and to excel. Probably not having the consistant intensity, range or impact that Olga Smirnova has, she may not get the same level of recognition, but she has amazing beauty of dance, in certain respects unequaled by anyone. I continue to watch their parallel development with much interest and greatest appreciation.

 

In further regard to Olga Smirnova, there is another area of comparison that I find very embracing.

 

Presence

 

This, for me, is one of her most remarkable qualities. I would like to mention two other ballerinas who effect me greatly in a similar manner.

 

Veronika Part -- She has a definite resemblance in her compelling nature. She’s perhaps more of the air. Her elevated essence seems to permeate everything. 

 

Simone Messmer -- I’ve seen so little of her and now that she’s at a new company, The Miami City Ballet, this may involve more changes. She’s one dancer who simply captivates me the minute she appears on stage. At times her performance seems less important than who she is, whom she’s conveying, her persona and her portrayal. I hope to be able to see much more of her, as her artistry should grow and grow.

 

Other artists such as Alina Cojocaru, whom I’ve not seen in several years, come to mind. I would also include the Mariinsky’s Yekaterina Kondaurova and Alina Somova, although they have so many areas that they excel in that it’s hard to focus on just this. They also tend to emphasise their power of ‘Presence’ and portrayal more selectively.

 

Edited by Buddy
change in spacing of paragraphs and grammar correction(s)

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Buddy,  I was smiling nicely at your posts, and that's because yes, you have been  writing a lot about Smirnova, but, as Natalia says, it is good to see positive comments and enthusiasm about a dancer you clearly love.  I also think Smirnova is a wonderful ballerina, and Uliana Lopatkina too, but I am afraid I just HAVE to pipe up here and say, that where our agreement must end is on the subject of the "other" O.S. who you just mentioned in connection with Smirnova, and who I do not consider worthy of tying the ballet shoes of Smirnova and Lopatkina, let alone being in the same realm of excellence!   I think she is AWFUL.   It was BURNING and I had to say it! and I do not want to start a trashing thread - but well, there it is!    But Smirnova and Lopatkina - yes, love them both!  :)

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Hi, MadameP. 

 

I think for one thing that our focus is probably different and this I respect. I would want to say this, though, that I don't think that we'd be discussing any of these artists if a lot of folks didn't think that had something outstanding to offer.

 

Hope you're doing well and best wishes.  :)

Edited by Buddy

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And history is yet again repeated. I cannot help myself commenting as I'm in the middle of re-reading Ivor Guest's bio of Romantic-era ballerina Fanny Cerrito, which so vividly recounts the enthusiasm among Les Cerritoists et les Elsslerists. We need worry only when the enthusiasm wanes for any of our modern dancers...when les Copelandists and Les Abreraists at ABT stop writing about these ladies.

 

This inspires me to begin a new fun thread on "Who would YOU cast as the four ballerinas if, say, Ratmansky would create a modern equivalent of Perrot/Pugni's 1845 Grand Pas de Quatre that starred Taglioni, Elssler, Cerrito and Grahan?" I'll start the thread separately later today. Begin to think of who you consider to be today's four great ballerinas, worthy of casting in a 21st-c Pas de Quatre.

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19 hours ago, Natalia said:

And history is yet again repeated. I cannot help myself commenting as I'm in the middle of re-reading Ivor Guest's bio of Romantic-era ballerina Fanny Cerrito, which so vividly recounts the enthusiasm among Les Cerritoists et les Elsslerists. We need worry only when the enthusiasm wanes for any of our modern dancers...when les Copelandists and Les Abreraists at ABT stop writing about these ladies.

 

This inspires me to begin a new fun thread on "Who would YOU cast as the four ballerinas if, say, Ratmansky would create a modern equivalent of Perrot/Pugni's 1845 Grand Pas de Quatre that starred Taglioni, Elssler, Cerrito and Grahan?" I'll start the thread separately later today. Begin to think of who you consider to be today's four great ballerinas, worthy of casting in a 21st-c Pas de Quatre.

Yes, we need to keep Ratmansky busy, if only to prevent him from inflicting another Little Humpbacked Horse, Anna Karenina or Cinderella on Mariinsky Ballet...  :)

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Ah, the Big Three "El Cheapos"! :D

To be fair, many other Ratmansky narrative ballets have had substantial designs, such as the Bolshoi version of BRIGHT STREAM (Boris Messerer designs) or the Mariinsky's edition of FAIRY's KISS (much prettier than Miami's). The Australian CINDERELLA, too...no ugly cheap scaffolding.

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I love "Little Humpbacked Horse" and think it is brilliant.  However, Ratmansky did not inflict "Anna Karenina" on the Mariinsky:  he made it for the Royal Danish Ballet, and the Mariinsky knew what it was getting.

 

I've never seen "Cinderella."  However, fancy sets and costumes aren't my bar for whether a ballet is effective.

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2 hours ago, Helene said:

I love "Little Humpbacked Horse" and think it is brilliant.  However, Ratmansky did not inflict "Anna Karenina" on the Mariinsky:  he made it for the Royal Danish Ballet, and the Mariinsky knew what it was getting.

 

I've never seen "Cinderella."  However, fancy sets and costumes aren't my bar for whether a ballet is effective.

OK, true, Mariinsky management decided to inflict these ballets on Mariinsky Ballet  I still don't like them, and think they could have made far better choices.  :)

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With new work, you get what you get, although you do get to choose whether to revive it (unless contracted otherwise). 

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The poor (plain) designs of the Ratmansky Cinderella caused a couple to cut off relations with me & my first husband. My husband & I were unable to use our Kennedy Ctr subscription tix, so offered them to the Cultural Attaché of the Hungarian Embassy & her husband, who went to the show. (My late husb was Hungarian.) 

 

Next day, she called my husband to thank us for the tix but made a point of noting, "We thought that the Kirov was classical. This was so ugly, we left after the second act." We never heard from them again...just cordial handshakes at the embassy, if we happened to see her.  This was many years ago...the Attaché long gone. 

The worst was that my husb ( rest his soul) held it against me..."I thought that you knew these ballets. How embarrassing..." but that was another story. Grrr.

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To Natalia's credit, she doesn't dislike plain sets if they are appropriate to the staging.  She has written many reviews of Balanchine works that she enjoyed.  

 

I, myself, have written comments criticizing PNB's supernumerary dresses for Sleeping Beauty.  The sillouettes are fine but the material looks like gauche las vegas gold cheap lame from the audience.  A bad dress is a bad dress, and a bad set is a bad set. 

 

Free tickets, OTOH, deserve nothing but gratitude and a proper thank you letter.  Natalia did nothing wrong, Madame Attache lacked courtesy.  If nothing else she could have followed Balanchine's maxim, closed her eyes, and enjoyed the Prokofiev.  

Edited by Jayne

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As far as I can see from clips of the Ratmansky "Cinderella," and from having seen Ratmansky's "Little Humpbacked Horse," and "Anna Karenina," the sets and most of the costumes in each were perfectly appropriate to the stagings, regardless of whether one likes the choreography or the aesthetic.

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On 14 May 2017 at 5:24 AM, Natalia said:

 

She and Semyon Chudin did indeed perform Swan Lake twice in Vienna, the 14th and the 17th. Really wish that I could have been there.

 

She’s an artist who seems able to bring inside herself all the beauty that she views and feels, make it part of herself and radiate it back to us through her exceptional artistry and remarkable physical beauty.

 

Here’s a curtain call video clip with a very nice comment from Manuel Legris, the Artistic Director.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BUFs5t2A9W5/

 

Interview with her, January 19, 2017

 

What kind of thoughts and feelings would you wish the audience to take home from “Sleeping Beauty” on Sunday?

 

The fairy tale brings hope for some good things to happen in life, of which love is probably the most important. I’d wish our spectators would leave ensured about this and that their hearts are filled with hope. Hope that beauty, kindness and love would remain the main pillars of our lives or, at least, that they are something to aspire to.

 

https://www.ilona-landgraf.com/2017/01/olga-smirnova-on-the-sleeping-beauty/

 

Edited by Buddy

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Thanks, Buddy. Did you see her leading Etudes in the recent Bolshoi "Contemporary Evening" cinemascast? Aristocratic elegance. To the manor born.  That "Platel vibe"!  Lucky NYC, soon to see her leading Diamonds in JEWELS.

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On 19 May 2017 at 6:45 AM, Natalia said:

Thanks, Buddy. Did you see her leading Etudes in the recent Bolshoi "Contemporary Evening" cinemascast? Aristocratic elegance. To the manor born.  That "Platel vibe"!  Lucky NYC, soon to see her leading Diamonds in JEWELS.

 

Natalia, I've only seen a brief video clip of her "Etudes."  She does have an "Aristocratic elegance."

 

The works that I've seen her perform can vary in emphasis. At the moment I tend to like her best in ones where she has really achieved her nuances of character and style. In this respect, I like very much her 'lyrical and poetic classics,' such as "Swan Lake," "Giselle" and "La Bayadere." I also really appreciate such things as her Bianca, partnered by Semyon Chudin, which, for me, is a fine counterpoint to the aggressiveness and by far the best part of as much as I've watched on video of Jean-Christophe Maillot's "The Taming of the Shrew." 

 

 Sometimes I think that she takes large chances in her interpretations and acting highlights. Almost all the time she's very successful. But as she says, 'she never stops.' She never stops evaluating and developing. She has a fine sense of appropriateness and beauty. And whatever she does, she does with exceptional ability.

 

 

Edited by Buddy
a brief thought added

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For those like myself who would travel anywhere to see her, here is where she posts her schedule.

 

http://www.olgasmirnovaballet.com/dates.html

(Thanks once again to Sophia at Dansomanie for finding her site)

 

I’ve mentioned the importance of facial expression for Olga Smirnova. The first few sentences might give a somewhat unexpected and partial reason for this. (This is a Google translation from Russian)

 

“ELLE  And this media is more likely to interfere or help you?

 

“O.S. I, as a person in general, closed, excessive media is not always comfortable. Then you need to take into account certain nuances on the ballet, for example, operators like to take close-ups, and, accordingly, a certain light make-up is required and you need to watch the facial expressions, not just the graphic positions of the body. I first encountered this when I participated in the TV show "The Big Ballet" on the channel "Culture". It is difficult to control everything at once, especially when there is no experience. Moreover, ballet dancers are used to working on themselves and striving for perfection. And this even raises before us the bar, does not give the right to make a mistake, to "pass-through" speech. Because if you show weakness, it is this performance that will get on the Internet, and it will be recorded - as always happens in life. (Laughs.)” 

 

Also I’ve written that the best series of Bolshoi performances that I've seen was on the dancers' own stage about a year and a half ago. This might give some expected insight.         

 

 “….on the Bolshoi stage I experience the most intense excitement. Probably on my own stage before my audience I always want to get more of what I want."

 

http://www.elle.ru/celebrities/interview/olga-smirnova-tolko-kogda-balet-stanovitsya-smyislom-jizni-v-nem-mojno-chego-to-dobitsya/

(Thanks to  Belaya Koshka at Балет и Опера for the article)  

 

Added thought:

 

Above Olga Smirnova says, "Because if you show weakness, it is this performance that will get on the Internet, and it will be recorded - as always happens in life. (Laughs.)”

 

Although she should know much more about this, in her case anyway, than I do, in my internet viewing this is sometimes true of certain posters. Yet, the vast majority of video clips that I've seen highlight the best in the artists. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Buddy
Балет и Опера site name corrected and "Added thought" added

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This is a nice interview conducted by Ekaterina Baeva.

https://worldofballet.com/smirnova_en
[thanks to a friend for finding this]

She could be, or already is, one of the greatest ballerinas ever.

She also says things like this.

"I believe that the main thing is not wish for something better, rather than remain in harmony with yourself and with your loved ones," confesses the modest prima ballerina. "When I was a child, I could not even dream of such a fulfilling creative life as I have now. I think I just want to cherish and enhance it.

"John [Neumeier] is an amazing person, a real genius. A man of such talent, who, at the same time, is friendly and polite with everyone."

On a course to greatness ?

"We have such a short-term career that idleness is our worst nightmare. That's why we appreciate it so much when the theater gives us a chance to learn new ballets in various choreographies and to work directly with choreographers. 

"With every year your skill becomes more profound, the number and variety of your roles increase, and as an artist grows up, so do her characters, even though the choreography remains unchanged. 

"When asked to choose five roles that could remain her repertoire, Smirnova contemplates for a while and finally chooses: "Tatiana. Anna Karenina. Giselle. The soloist in the Artifact Suite [Forsythe] and... of course, Nikiya in La Bayadère." 

Of much interest to me and noted earlier at BalletAlert! she is now being coached by Maria Allash, former Principal Ballerina, recently made ballerina "Under Contract" as well as Coach, instead of the highly regarded Marina Kondratieva ("Ballet Master-Repetiteur"). Maybe someone has some insight into this.

It will be very exciting to see what great heights she might attain while being highly aware of her abilities yet modest in expressing it and warmly considerate to all involved.   

Edited by Buddy
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On 12/27/2018 at 1:07 AM, Buddy said:

Of much interest to me and noted earlier at BalletAlert! she is now being coached by Maria Allash, former Principal Ballerina, recently made ballerina "Under Contract" as well as Coach, instead of the highly regarded Marina Kondratieva ("Ballet Master-Repetiteur"). Maybe someone has some insight into this.

The insight is that it is very common for dancers to switch their tutors at the Bolshoi. Smirnova went from Kondratieva to Allash, who, by the way, was a wonderful Aegina in Spartacus, so it was very timely given that Smirnova debuted as Aegina a week ago. Stepanova has recently left Lyudmila Semenyaka for Kondratieva. And Daria Khokhlova left Nina Semizorova to go back to working with Lyudmila Semenyaka, who was her first tutor at the Bolshoi. Evgenia Obraztsova prepared her first Don Quixote at the Bolshoi with Lyudmila Semenyaka, then switched to Svetlana Adyrkhaeva and is currently with Nadezhda Gracheva. Shipulina went from Kondratieva to Golikova (who passed away) to Nikonov and now to Gracheva. Nikulina started out under Maximova, then went to Semizorova, then to Semenyaka and is now with Chenchikova.

Only Zakharova stayed with Semenyaka throughout her career at the Bolshoi (and it shows). Also Adyrkhaeva's ballerinas tend to stick with her. 

I will not get into the men.

Edited by Fleurdelis

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43 minutes ago, Fleurdelis said:

The insight is that it is very common for dancers to switch their tutors at the Bolshoi. Smirnova went from Kondratieva to Allash, who, by the way, was a wonderful Aegina in Spartacus, so it was very timely given that Smirnova debuted as Aegina a week ago. Stepanova has recently left Lyudmila Semenyaka for Kondratieva. And Daria Khokhlova left Nina Semizorova to go back to working with Lyudmila Semenyaka, who was her first tutor at the Bolshoi. Evgenia Obraztsova prepared her first Don Quixote at the Bolshoi with Lyudmila Semenyaka, then switched to Svetlana Adyrkhaeva and is currently with Nadezhda Gracheva. Shipulina went from Kondratieva to Golikova (who passed away) to Nikonov and now to Gracheva. Nikulina started out under Maximova, then went to Semizorova, then to Semenyaka and is now with Chenchikova.

Only Zakharova stayed with Semenyaka throughout her career at the Bolshoi (and it shows). Also Adyrkhaeva's ballerinas tend to stick with her. 

I will not get into the men.

Thanks so much, Fleurdelis. I didn't know about any of this. I thought that if you have a 'super-coach' you'd essentially  stay with that person.

Awhile ago I thought I saw a large 'improvement,'  a change of emphasis, in Alyona Kovalyova. She seemed much more continuous in her flow. Her coach remains the same, Olga Chenchikova. It could be growth or new imput from others. Would you have a guess as to how this could happen ?  

 

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13 hours ago, Buddy said:

Awhile ago I thought I saw a large 'improvement,'  a change of emphasis, in Alyona Kovalyova. She seemed much more continuous in her flow. Her coach remains the same, Olga Chenchikova. It could be growth or new imput from others. Would you have a guess as to how this could happen ?  

 

I am not aware of Alena switching her tutor or working with anyone else besides Chenchikova, aside from foreign ballet masters who come to set up imported pieces, such as Jewels, Artifact Suite or Etudes. But I have not seen enough of Kovaleva lately to comment on her progress, the ticket pricing policies of the Bolshoi are curtailing my usual theater-going habits, so I do not get to see as much as I used to. More than development of flow, I am hoping to see how much substance Alena has been adding to her roles.

Edited by Fleurdelis

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5 hours ago, Fleurdelis said:

I am not aware of Alena switching her tutor or working with anyone else besides Chenchikova, aside from foreign ballet masters who come to set up imported pieces, such as Jewels, Artifact Suite or Etudes. But I have not seen enough of Kovaleva lately to comment on her progress, the ticket pricing policies of the Bolshoi are curtailing my usual theater-going habits, so I do not get to see as much as I used to. More than development of flow, I am hoping to see how much substance Alena has been adding to her roles.

Thanks again very much, Fleurdelis.

I’m not sure what Olga Chenchikova strengths are as a coach, perhaps you could tell us, but Olga Smirnova stayed with her through quite a range of debuts. I would guess that she sees more than one new ballet as a reason to change. I was unaware of Maria Allash’s prowess as a dramatist in this particular work, but a comment on the internet  that I read yesterday definitely agrees with you.

Olga Smirnova’s greatest strength at the moment seems to be her dramatic power and her captivating stage presence. I would guess that she wants to really pursue this and sees Maria Allash’s advise as being very helpful.

Olga Smirnova’s exceptional sense of drama is quite different from the amazing one that the ‘older generation’ possessed, as exemplified by Anna Pavlova and Galina Ulanova. Their’s I would describe as being more transcendental. Her’s could be equally compelling in its own way. And I’m still highly interested in how her refined Vaganova capabilities will be used, developed and adapted.

I can sympathize with you about ticket prices. When I look in, the Bolshoi is about twice the price of the Mariinsky, but world prices in general can sometimes get very expensive. Also knowing more in advance who will perform would be helpful.

When you comment about the substance of someone like Alyona Kovalyova, I assume that you are referring to portrayal.  I’m actually delighted with her youthfulness and freshness, and with that of similar young artists, along with her remarkable talent, but this could be a totally personal preference.

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I actually see Olga as a throwback to the styles of Pavlova, Ulanova and a bit of Kondratieva, in many of her parts she has a similar otherworldly, ethereal quality.

And then you see her Carmen, and she is completely different. Incredible range. To me this is what distinguishes a good ballerina from a great one - range. Vishneva, Guillem, Makarova, Bussel among others had it. I hope Alena develops hers too. Why not be delighted by  youthfullness and freshness one day, and be moved by dramatic talent the next one?

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23 hours ago, Fleurdelis said:

To me this is what distinguishes a good ballerina from a great one - range.

Would this mean that Kondratieva was not a great ballerina because she didn't dance bravura roles? Or conversely does this make Kristina Kretova a great ballerina? Don't misunderstand me. I like Kretova a lot. She's a good dancer and a fine actress with a broad range. The Bolshoi is lucky to have her. But she's a utility dancer. A good one. But not a great ballerina.

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On 2/19/2019 at 2:01 PM, Fleurdelis said:

I actually see Olga as a throwback to the styles of Pavlova, Ulanova and a bit of Kondratieva, in many of her parts she has a similar otherworldly, ethereal quality.

And then you see her Carmen, and she is completely different. Incredible range. To me this is what distinguishes a good ballerina from a great one - range. Vishneva, Guillem, Makarova, Bussel among others had it. I hope Alena develops hers too. Why not be delighted by  youthfullness and freshness one day, and be moved by dramatic talent the next one?

Fleurdelis, I've only seen Olga Smirnova on stage for two Swan Lakes, one La Bayadère, the toreador duet from Carmen-Suite and a few other brief gala pieces, so your viewing of her may be much more than mine. I've also seen many video clips and hope to see her on stage next month in St. Petersburg doing Giselle and possibly the entire Carmen-Suite.

I continue to feel that she's more in the present than the transcendent, by choice. Substance -- 1,000%.  I also feel that she's capable of doing about anything. If she were to gravitate more to the 'transcendent,' as I see it, she could probably excel. This is just based on my viewing, but you could be absolutely right.

Range -- she has, definitely. And I do agree with you that it can be a major factor in determining greatness. 

Also, as I've mentioned before, if she were to focus more on developing and integrating her Vagonava-style loveliness of motion, I think that she could become someone even more exceptional. It might make for a combination never seen before. If she were to continue her excursions into modern it could also be something totally new and exciting, somewhat like Diana Vishneva.

As for youthfulness and freshness, I see this as something slightly different. Alyona Kovalyova, for instance, is very young and that's what you see when she's on stage. She also has some very mature character abilities. This sort of 'youthfulness,' I feel, is generally the domain of the very young. Once you develop character substance, you perhaps become something else. Galina Ulanova could touch the soul of a 20 year-old in her 50s, but be one again? I've not yet seen an 'actor' who could do this. If one comes along as you suggest, I'd be thrilled.

Volcanohunter, the only thing that I could say in regard to what you've written is that I was knocked-over by the first video clip that I saw of Kristina Kretova. I've haven't had a chance to see her on stage, but would certainly like to. Then I would feel more confident in sharing my opinions.

Added: By Vaganova-style loveliness of motion, I would once again cite Alyona Kovalyova. She appears to be emphasizing her's and it's wonderful to see. How her development contrasts with that of Olga Smirnova will also be exciting to see. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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