July 17 - Monkeyhouse Returns to ArtBeat

Psst...if you have been hankering to see some of Monkeyhouse's latest creations, then head over to ArtBeat on July 17. Monkeyhouse will begin outside with movement phrases inspired by last year's Chor-i-dor and motivate people to head into the Somerville Theater. Then at 3PM, Monkeyhouse will flood the stage with a series of new pieces, works-in-progress, and a few audience favorites. Be on the lookout for interviews and more information as we creep closer to the event.

Oh, and did we mention that there is a French Horn involved?


Becoming A Choreographer

I'd like to take a minute to introduce you to Ryan Casey.  The funny thing about New York is that I am pretty sure I have met more Bostonians here than I did when I lived in Boston.  While I had seen Ryan perform while he was in high school and dancing for Themla Goldberg at The Dance Inn in Lexington, I didn't have the pleasure of actually meeting him until just this year while he was sitting behind the desk at the American Tap Dance Center.  Turns out, not only is Ryan an incredibly gifted tap dancer but he is also quite a writer and an overall great guy.  (He didn't even blink when I knew his name and that we are from the same city and then proceeded to babble like an idiot at him, all before ever introducing myself.)  Recently I discovered that Ryan (who is an undergraduate student at NYU's Gallatin School) has a blog and it just so happens that his most recent post is about his journey in becoming a choreographer.  Thank you Ryan for allowing us to re-post your story here!  I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. 
If you're interested in reading more of what Ryan has to say, check out his blog!  I have the sneaking suspicion we're also going to be seeing more of Ryan around here, so keep an eye out!  --Nicole

Becoming a Choreographer
by Ryan P. Casey

When I got my dorm assignment last summer, I was thrilled to learn that my building, unlike the others, had its own dance studio. While some of my peers were out drinking and carousing, I envisioned myself spending late nights sweating it out in the studio, the thrill of new rhythms and musical explorations a more practical and useful endeavor than beer pong. Needless to say, I was disappointed to discover that the studio was no bigger than my own room, with a slippery tile floor, crooked ballet bar, and no sound system. And it was typically invaded by groups of studious Asians or loud theatre groups. While I did fulfill my dream of late-night choreography sessions, shuffling in my sneakers to avoid a wipeout, I knew I needed a better space in which to practice.

This spring, I decided it was time to cash in on the 20+ hours of studio space I had earned from my shifts at the American Tap Dance Center since the fall. I penciled myself into the schedule for two hours and showed up that Friday afternoon with the full use of a brand new studio at my fingertips – or toes, really – complete with sound system and sprung wood floor.

But after half an hour, I was bored. Finally I had the perfect practice space, space I had earned, and I was uninspired to use it. I found myself putting on different songs and growing thoroughly disappointed with my improvisation. I would experiment with choreography I had planned in my head or in my sneakers and find that it didn’t fit the music or was not interesting at all. I ended up letting my iPod play while I walked around in frustration, trying to let myself be inspired by something, anything. What was wrong with me?

Four years ago, when I set out to choreograph my first solo, I hadn’t encountered any mental barricades like this. Thelma and I had selected a song together, and it was decided that I would work alone in the studio every day for a week and then show her what I had created. It was a slow process, I remember, and not just because I spent a lot of time raiding the studio cabinets, trying to find something to eat (all I could find were strawberry NutriGrain bars, though I could hardly complain). But at the end of the week, I had a pretty good rough draft of my routine, which turned out to a big hit at Tap City that year. Okay, so there are no granola bars in the ATDC studios. But that could hardly explain my lack of motivation.

Part of it, I know, is related to a revelation I had in Barbara Duffy’s improv class in the fall: I am a very self-conscious tap dancer. No doubt this characteristic is a result not only of my generally anal ways, but of my continuing quest, sparked by Thelma, to be the best dancer that I can be. I had earned a reputation for being a very clean, clear tap dancer, and I felt pressured to live up to that expectation all the time. As a result, I was being too careful, ironically limiting my abilities in my attempts to perfect them. It was when Barbara encouraged me to let go, let loose, BREATHE, and ignore my mistakes for once that I realized I do not have to be careful in order to sound good; my technique is polished enough that I am confident I always will.

This was also one of the rare occasions in which I did not have any shows to prepare for. I did not have a deadline by which I had to produce a solo, and therefore did not feel as obligated to have something to show for my time in the studio. What was the point, I asked myself, of expending a lot of time, energy and thought on a routine when I did not even know if I would get to use it – assuming, of course, that it was quality choreography, which many recent endeavors had not been? (Yes, I realize now it was a silly question, for I do not need a deadline to be able to create a piece, but this was my thought process at the time.)

After experiencing this same frustration and failure a second time, leaving halfway through my scheduled three-hour session, I decided that I was truly bored with myself. I was not seeing my technique improve; I was not creating anything new and interesting; and I was effectively wasting my time in the studio. As discouraging and upsetting as it may be to fail others, I think it feels worse to fail yourself, and ultimately I was doing just that. Where was my mettle, my drive, my confidence? Surely I had not abandoned them back home in Lexington.

My fusion of poetry and tap dance, created for my school’s annual arts festival, renewed my inspiration and confidence as a soloist. I have not created anything new for myself since then. For the meantime, I would like to continue exploring my opportunities with tap and spoken word poetry, foregoing the typical solo path of canned music in favor of something original and experimental. It is what currently moves me and gets me thinking, and I think it truly allows me, as Barbara encouraged me, to let go and explore more of myself, rather than feel caged in by some recorded jazz groove or Michael Jackson song. Working with poetry has allowed me to find my unique voice through writing and dance, my two great passions in life, and has thus been much more rewarding.

But while I wallowed in my own self-pity and frustration, I contemplated what was next. I did not want to spend more time in the studio by myself. I needed to work with and be inspired by other dancers, to begin my journey as a choreographer. After all, if I ever wanted to be hired by a dance studio or a festival, I would presumably need some experience in creating and setting pieces on others. The closest I had ever come to that was choreographing the tap section of the finale at my last Dance Inn recital. I wanted to do something bigger now, make a whole piece by myself. But who would I work with? Who would my dancers be?

I was lucky enough to be able to work with my family, my Legacy girls, when I came home for the summer. They were all enthusiastic about the piece and have put in a lot of extra time, effort and dedication to learning and performing it. I was so pleased with its premiere at the Dance for World Community Festival in Harvard Square on June 12th, and I cannot wait to hear about how it is received when three Legacy dancers take it to Symphony Space at the Tap City Youth Concert on July 8th. It is really a thrill not only to see those dancers present my work onstage, but to see them having fun; to see them truly caring about my work and dedicating themselves to it; and to see that I have ultimately succeeded in carrying on the mission of the Legacy Dance Company: sharing the joy of dance with others. When we first danced “Hey, Soul Sister” in Harvard Square, we all clapped and flapped around at the end, and I remember passing my friends and seeing lots of smiling and laughing faces. That was the greatest reward for my first choreography project. I think I can safely and proudly call it a success. And I can call myself a choreographer, not to mention one who has had his work presented on one of New York’s top stages. This is quite an exciting beginning, and I look forward to future choreography opportunities.


Another Exciting Opportunity for Teen Dancers

by karen Krolak

Back in April, Monkeyhouse interviewed Andrea Blesso about the Movement at the Mills program at the Boston Center for the Arts (BCA). This year the BCA also created a dance residency program where artists/companies are given time to rehearse and develop new works. As part of the application process, artists must propose a workshop, informal performance, or open rehearsal that will invite people into their creative process. When I saw this teen workshop developed by Annie Kloppenberg announced on the Dance Action Network, I knew many of my students at Impulse Dance Center would be interested.

If you are free this Saturday, I highly recommend participating (if you are a teen dancer) or attending the performance at 4. Keep your fingers and toes crossed and perhaps, I will even have a chance to interview Annie in the next day or so.

Contemporary Dance Workshop and Performance For Teens

with Boston Center for the Arts Dance Resident Artist Annie Kloppenberg

and NYC-based Company members Kendra Portier and Alli Ruszkowski

with Boston Project Dancers

Saturday, June 26th
workshop 1:00-3:30
performance 4:00
Calderwood Pavilion, 2nd floor,
527 Tremont Street, Boston 02116
$25 per student

Workshop Description:

In this workshop, dancers will first take a short master class with company artists and will then have the opportunity to learn repertory and engage in the creative process of making and performing a version of the company’s current work, “Expert Witness.”

This workshop is targeted toward teens with dance experience. Class will learn choreography and build structured improvisations based on Kloppenberg’s current work in progress “Expert Witness”. Workshop dancers will experience the collaborative working process of a
professional company. Then will create a new version of “Expert Witness” to perform in a post-workshop performance for friends and family at 4:00.

Class will focus on developing articulate, dynamic, and expressive bodies in a dialogue between rigorous technical practice and targeted improvisational exercises. Movement phrases play with control, abandon, and their intersection, emphasizing principles of weight, efficiency, specificity, and torque to illuminate the patterning of movement rather than the action of it alone. Dancers will explore virtuosity and subtle performance textures, increasing dynamic range and depth. We will dance out, dance big, sweat, and have a great time.

Class is appropriate for teen dancers with experience or interest in modern/contemporary dance.

Please email anniekloppenberg@ gmail.com with any questions.
Pre-registration is suggested to ensure your spot! Email Andrea Blesso at ablesso@bcaonline. org to register.

Instructor Bios:

Annie Kloppenberg’s recent choreography has been supported by residencies or commissions from the Boston Center for the Arts, Dance Theater Workshop, The Taft School, OhioDance & Dublin Arts Council, and presented at such venues as the Judson Church, Green Street Studios, and Dancespace Center (now DNA). She has been a project dancer with the Bebe Miller Company, performed in work by Sara Pearson & Patrik Widrig, Shani Collins, Rebecca Rice, Heidi Henderson, Karl Rogers, and Ashley Thorndike, among others. Annie performs and teaches nationally as a member of Like You Mean It, an improvisational ensemble. Annie has taught throughout the greater Boston Area and is on faculty at Colby College.

Kendra Portier trained and performed with BalletMet and later received a BFA in dance from The Ohio State University. Her professional work has been with choreographers such as Lisa Race/Scott Cohen, Jennifer Nugent, Hoi Polloi, Nicole Wolcott Dance, David Dorfman Dance, Vanessa Justice Dance, MVWorks, and collaborations with Launch Movement Experiment. Kendra teaches regularly as a guest artist at Dance New Amsterdam, is on faculty at Hunter College and Monroe Dance Academy, and runs Dancepantsnyc, a community-based investigation of movement philosophies. She has been a guest artist and/or presented work at DNA, 92nd Street Y, Triskelion Arts, OSU, Hunter College, Judson Church, Green Street Studios, and continues to actively pursue her own choreography.

Alli Ruszkowski has taught at Peridance, Monroe Dance Academy, and is a teaching artist in the Dance Exposure Project through Connecticut Ballet. She has had the pleasure of working with MVWorks, Vanessa Justice Dance, Launch Movement Experiment, Julian Barnett, and Fivefour. Alli received a BFA in dance performance from the Ohio State University in 2003. She has also had the pleasure of studying at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Bates Dance Festival, and American Dance Festival NYC.


Hooray for Monkeyhouse's Movers and Shakers!

Heaven's to Betsy!

Just feast your eyes on that flurry of activity...

Monkeyhouse's Movers & Shakers
were amazing on Saturday.

Thanks to Pam & Steve Harris, Tori Woodhouse, Kristin Bezio, Joanne Dougan, Anne Howarth & Rick Frank, Caitlin Meehan, and Nikki Sao Pedro, our move to the new office at Springstep was a blast.

Nicole Harris organized everything in advance so that the day would run smoothly and we actually ran way ahead of time!

You can get a clearer picture of how the day progressed and sneak a peek at the new space by checking out our facebook page.


YARD SALE! Sunday, June 20th!

Pam and Steve Harris are hosting a yard sale tomorrow with partial proceeds going to Monkeyhouse!!

WHERE:  41 Harvard St, Natick, MA

WHEN:  Sunday, June 20th, 8am-3pm

WHO:  This will be a multi-family yard sale (which means LOTS of stuff!), including a table or two of donations Monkeyhouse has collected over the years for such an occasion.  Proceeds from those tables go directly to Monkeyhouse!!

Please stop by to check it out!!  While you're there, be sure to thank Pam and Steve for all their help getting us moved into our new office!!  We wouldn't have been able to do it without them!!


Thanks to Jonathan Wolken...

by karen Krolak
Photo Credit: Robert Whitman

This morning my friend, Joanne, forwarded me an obituary for Jonathan Wolken from the New York Times. Uff, I just wither when dance legends die, especially so young.

Although Pilobolus Dance Theater began in the year that I was born, I did not discover them until I attended the American Dance Festival in 1992. When I auditioned for the partnering class with two Pilobolus dancers, Jack Arnold and Carol Parker, I was oblivious. If someone had suggested to me that all 5 foot 4 inches of me could lift a 6 foot tall man, I would have cackled hysterically. And, I probably would never have enrolled.

That class obliterated my definition of myself as a dancer as it taught me how to leverage my weight. Watching Carol, who was tiny except for her very pregnant belly, flip people over or perch up on some one's back, thrilled me. At the end of the 6 weeks, I felt empowered physically and artistically. I am not sure if any other workshop has ever prompted such a transformation in me.

I never met Mr Wolken but I have told the story of how he founded Pilobolus to many kids, including all the boys in the Dover Sherborn High School musicals during my time there. As the New York Times so eloquently begins, "Jonathan Wolken, a nondancer who four decades ago helped found a dance troupe, named it after a fungus and watched gleefully as that troupe — Pilobolus Dance Theater — became one of the most popular modern-dance companies in the world." Seriously, how can anyone resist being inspired by such a story.

To this day, I still use Pilobolus' flocking exercises to begin my modern classes. Those three looks, three touches, three hugs turn students' focus onto the group as a whole. It gradually teaches them how to share weight. Through our conversations after the exercise, kids stumble onto metaphors about how to be a good partner, a concept that extends far beyond their time in the studio.

Thanks Mr Wolken for your indirect influence on my life and on my students. Your ideas will continue to ripple out for a long time.

(Also, I have long since lost touch with both Jack Arnold and Carol Parker. In those pre-email, pre-Facebook days, that was so easy to do even if you had the best intentions. If anyone knows them, please forward this post to them. This is obviously a tribute to their legacy as teachers as well.)


10th Anniversary Season Preview (Part 2)

Pssst...Monkeyhouse has been selected to participate in the inaugural Massachusetts Dance Festival. We are thrilled that we will be appearing on August 21st (Boston @ Boston Ballet) and 28th (Amherst @ UMASS) with:

Audra Carabetta and Dancers 
Boston Dance Company 
Contrapose Dancers
Lorraine Chapman and Company
Sokolov Now!
Sorvino Dance Project
Static Noyze

Tickets for the concert are normally $25, but you can buy them for only $20 if you pre-order on the MDF web site before August 15th..

Don't worry, we will send out more details once we get the new office unpacked.



(That Wont Cost You A Penny)

Monkeyhouse is moving to a new office and we need your help! We are not above bribing you with snacks, drinks and maybe a meal or two!

What can I do to help?
Saturday, June 19th is the big moving day! We are meeting at the old office (Arlington Center for the Arts, 31 Foster St, Arlington, MA) at 10am to get things started! 

What if I can't do weekends? 
We will also be in our old office every day this week getting things ready to move, be it sorting costumes, packing office supplies or consolidating the press archive. Any time you can offer to help would be greatly appreciated. Just let me know when you want to come in and we'll make sure someone's there!

I'm not around this week but I still want to help!
Let us know! The Monkeyhouse Movers & Shakers, our volunteer group, have things to do all year long! 

I want to help but I only have an hour or two? 
No worries! We'd love to have you for as long as you're able to help.
Okay, where do I sign up? 
Contact me at MonkeyhouseBlog [at] gmail [dot] com to figure out how you can help! 

Thank you in advance and I'm looking forward to seeing you!


Big News!

We have some really wonderful news!! Monkeyhouse is pleased to announce our upcoming move to Springstep!

Springstep is a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating cultures and connecting people through dance and music. They have a beautiful facility in Medford, MA where they offer classes, performances and so much more.

After rehearsing there for the last few years, enjoying a number of their programs and getting to know all the wonderful staff, all of us here at Monkeyhouse have a real love for Springstep.  Lucky for us, they have an office space that they've begun renting out and Monkeyhouse is moving in!!  While we are sad to be leaving Arlington, we are thrilled to call the Springstep building home.


Auditions for an Aerial Children's Nutcracker and an interview too.

by karen Krolak

I love the Dance Action Network. It lists all of the audition announcements, concerts, master classes, and more that occur every day in the Boston area. Last week I noticed a fascinating call for kids to audition for an aerial version of the Nutcracker. Man, how I wish that there had been opportunities like this when I was growing up. Since I had never heard of the company before I decided to see if Joanna Duncan might be willing to answer a few questions for me via email.

karen Krolak: How many roles are there for children in your production of the aerial Nutcracker?
Joanna Duncan: There are many roles from party children,tree angels, mice, rats, snowflakes, soldiers, candy canes, flowers, dolls, and more surprises.

kK: I noticed that you are a classically trained ballerina. What prompted you to re-imagine this story with so many styles of dance?
JD: When The Nutcracker Ballet first came to the stage in 1892 it was considered radical for it's era. So we decided to create a Nutcracker which is also radical for its era while maintaining a close connection to the original story from 1892. The re-imagining began with Francoise Voranger and Jillian St Germain who are co-directors of The Hybrid Movement Company based in NYC. They are brilliant, with endless creative ability and a total love and dedication to the art form of dance and love of community.

kK: Hmm... I have never heard of either choreographer before. Can you tell me a little about their dance training?
JD: They have trained intensely in Aerial to create pure classical ballet lines and movement into the air. They are also the two most renowned female break dancers from the NYC Tranzformerz. I have found it very interesting that, because they are classically trained ( Royal Ballet School and Boston Ballet ) they understand the need for pure dance training from the beginning source for technique in all dance forms. Five years ago they approached the NYC Tranzformerz and asked to be trained in the ground roots of Break dancing from the very streets and people where it was first created. They make radical moves into different dance directions with apparent ease because they believe that the general public wants to see movement it relates to.

kK: How wonderful that they have each studied such a diverse range of styles. How do they weave them into the production?
JD: So when Clara who goes to sleep, she is lifted into the air in a silk hammock as she floats into her dreams and the world of the nutcracker appears. A sugar plum fairy and her prince who actually fly as fairies fly and a snow King and Queen who begin as snow flakes blown by the wind. There's also soldiers and rats who break dance and tumble in trained fencing action. Spanish dancers who are surrounded by villagers who tap in the Spanish rhythms and more surprises.

kK: I am embarrassed to admit that I have also never heard of the Hanover Theatre. Can you tell me a little bit about why you choose to present your production there?
JD: There is a 50ft scrim at the Hanover Theatre which will be used to full advantage. The expert multi media imagination of Francoise Voranger and Scott Duncan generates a beautiful visual program. This production is designed to take grandparents, parents and children travelling together with Clara on her imaginative visual and audio journey into the amazing land of The Nutcracker.

kK: So how many people are involved in choreographing all of the sections?
JD: The Hybrid Movement Company are the main choreographers. I will be choreographing in collaboration with them. We are a large team of collaborative artists including: Francoise Voranger, Jillian St Germain, myself, Sergei Kim, and Mark Pickett. Our rehearsal team involves four more artists. Every person we have selected for our team has a proven reputation of patient kindness towards children with attention to technical detail achieved through positive encouragement.

kK: I am very excited that you will be blending so many choreographic voices.
JD: The performers of The Hybrid Movement Company are really into collaborative works, They collaborate performances with Antigravity, Quixotic Fusion, Acrobak, Imagio etc. They are about arts in community so every dance student who auditions will be cast in a role. Reading your website I can see that we are all like minded in regard to Arts and this is so very refreshing to me . :)

kK: Thanks for taking so much time to answer my questions.

The Hybrid Movement Company in collaboration with Dance It Up!
will hold auditions on

June 9 Wednesday

5:00-5:45pm Ballet (6-8 year olds)
5:45-6:30pm Irish Step (ages 6 and up)
6:30-7:15pm Ballet (9-11 year olds)
7:15-8:00pm Jazz and Tap (ages 6-11, ages 12 and up)

June 10 Thursday
5:00-6:30pm Ballet (ages 12 and up)
6:30-7:15pm Hip Hop (ages 6-11, ages 12 and up
Registration is required prior to audition. For more information contact DANCE IT UP! at 508-839-1648 or www.danceitup.com


Getting to Know Tony Waag

The American Tap Dance Foundation
by Nicole Harris

Since moving to New York three years ago I have been fortunate enough to take class, dance and work with some amazing members of the tap dance community. Many of these opportunities would not have been possible if not for all the hard work and dedication of Tony Waag. Tony is the Artistic/Executive Director of the American Tap Dance Foundation, a non-profit committed to establishing and legitimizing Tap Dance as a vital component of American Dance through creation, presentation, education and preservation.

ATDF started in 1986 as the American Tap Dance Orchestra, a vehicle for the choreography of Brenda Bufalino, of which Tony was a featured performer and Executive Director. As the organization grew to include more education they opened Woodpeckers Studio from 1989 to 1995. In 2002 TAP CITY, The New York City Tap Festival was created and the name changed from the American Tap Dance Orchestra to the American Tap Dance Foundation. In January of 2010 The American Tap Dance Center opened its doors on Christopher Street in New York City, creating a home for all of ATDF's programming, from classes for all ages and levels, to workshops and performance opportunities, to the Tap City Youth Ensemble.

This winter I got to sit and talk with Tony about ATDF, the festival, his career and plans for the future and the art of tap dancing.

NH: What is your favorite part of what the organization does?
TW: Well, you know it changes. Most recently (of course, I'm so into the festival and I love performing and the artistic things like being part of a show) but most recently it's been the kids and the classes and just seeing them tap dance.

NH: Do you think that having a home will change the organization?
TW: I think the fact that it's growing and reaching more people is change. It has become more challenging. I think it gives us more of an identity. It's easier for people to wrap their brains around something they can actually see and experience on a consistent basis.

NH: Part of your mission statement is about preservation. Can you tell me a little about that?
TW: We got funding last year from the NEA to re-explore two of Brenda Bufalino's pieces. It didn't dawn on me until that moment that it had already been twenty years. The preservation is now, because what feels like it was yesterday was twenty years ago.
It's also a lot of picking up the pieces, the stuff that was really almost lost. I've seen all of these legends die over the last twenty years. Luckily I learned or was part of or had access to either footage or conversations or actual people that learned information or material or dances from these people. From the very beginning it was pretty obvious that that stuff was in danger.

NH: What about preserving work that is being created now?
TW: Well, luckily with technology it's a little easier to preserve things now. If you do a contemporary project and have access to cameras and websites to promote your events or dvds to sell your product you're more likely to capture all that information, not just to preserve it but as a tool to remember it or knowing that you want to be able to use it for promotion later on. You didn't have all these other things before. Luckily a lot of the preservation is happening anyway.

NH: Tap has such an oral history. How do you feel the new technology changes the art form?
TW: Those tools are great as far as education. Yes, you can see the Miller Brothers and Lois on YouTube but it's an easy come easy go. You spend a nano-second looking at it and you think you know what it is. But if you had to work for it, you'd appreciate it differently.
But it's also good because it's a way to get it out to more people. If there's a show with tap dancing on Broadway, even if it's only one number, that's great because it reaches thousands of people. If there's show on television with tap dancing, that reaches millions of people.

Stay Tuned for More Words of Wisdom from Tony Waag, Coming Soon!


That Wont Cost You A Penny

As we are heading into this time of growth and change Monkeyhouse needs you more than ever. In efforts to build our volunteer group, the Monkeyhouse Movers & Shakers, we have set up a series of volunteer days throughout June. Each day will have a variety of projects so you will be sure to find something that suits your interests and skills.

Don't worry if you can't do a whole day. Whatever time you can offer will be greatly appreciated! Email me at MonkeyhouseBlog [at] gmail [dot] com and let me know what you want to do to help! Keep an eye out for more volunteer opportunities soon!


Sunday, June 6th

11:00 am - 3:00 pm

Arlington Center for the Arts

41 Foster St, Arlington, MA

It's Spring Cleaning time! Join us in getting our office on track. We'll provide snacks and drinks throughout the afternoon. If you stick around after we'll even throw you a Thank You Lunch Party!

Press Archive: Monkeyhouse has had a lot of press over the past ten years. Help update the press archive and get the filing system in order.

Office Purging:
In addition to collecting a lot of press, we've managed to collect a lot of stuff over the past 10 years as well. Rather than letting it take up space in the office, we're sorting and purging and getting ready for a yard sale!


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