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Beginners

1. Looking Down

Many beginning ballroom dancers tend to look down at their feet, unsure of where they should move, and afraid to step on their partner. This can be a difficult habit to break. Looking down affects your posture, causing shoulders to hunch forward and weakens the dance frame. The goal of social dancing is to use your body to communicate everything to your partner--try to feel where your partner is moving in order to determine where to place your foot, rather than allowing your gaze to fall to the floor. A good way to practice looking up is picking a focal point that’s high up in the room, such as a clock, a window, or your partner’s smile! Your dancing will be much smoother, and you will be able to focus on your partner’s face, rather than their feet!

2. Weak Elbow ("Noodle Arms")

The dance frame is the most important part of ballroom dancing. The frame is the main way leader and follower are able to communicate on the floor. Therefore, both partners need to maintain strength in their arms and backs. If dancers let their elbows lose tension, the lines of communication are broken and partners are unable to relay messages. A good exercise for this is to stand facing a wall. Lift your arms in front of you, place palms on the wall and lean forward slightly, shifting your weight toward the wall (almost as though you were doing a push-up). This kind of strength and resistance will keep your frame strong and allow you to work with your partner more easily on the dance floor.

3. Raised Shoulders

A lot of us carry our tension, stress, or anxiety in our shoulders. While we dance, sometimes we start focusing so much on footwork, frame, looking up, etc, that the stress of it begins to show in our shoulders. It’s very common for shoulders to tighten and raise up toward the ears, creating a very scrunched upper body. If this happens, take a moment to breathe and relax, rolling the shoulders back and down. Imagine squeezing a baseball between your shoulder blades, which then turn into butter and melt down your back. This opens up your chest and creates a nice, long neck. In dance, we always want to lengthen! You’ll immediately look more confident and poised.

4. Big Steps

This is a hard habit to break, especially if you have long legs! Often, beginning dancers take very wide steps. This makes dancing difficult because it can throw you off balance and cause you to move too slowly with the rhythm of a song. Plus, if you step too far it can be hard for your partner to keep up, or you may step on their toes (ouch!). Try keeping steps a bit smaller until you feel really comfortable with the tempo and your partner is able to match you step-by-step. Their legs (and toes) will thank you for it!

5. Getting Frustrated

Sometimes during a dance lesson, it’s easy to get caught up in perfecting each step--repeating it multiple times trying to nail it. However, some steps are complicated and troublesome to learn. When you encounter these figures, it’s natural to feel frustrated. Many dancers “hit a wall” when they’re unable to improve a step or don’t catch on quickly. When this happens, rather than continuing to drill the step, it can be more helpful to stop and take a break for a few minutes. Have a drink of water, grab a snack, and sit down for a second. Then return to the dance floor with a clearer, calmer mind and try again. You might find the step easier than it was before!

 

Source: Duet Dance Studio Instructor - Grace Lethiot

Consider this . . . 

Competing is not about winning.  Competing is about achieving goals.  What was your goal when you started taking dance lessons?  Was it to become the best dancer you could be?  If your answer is yes, then competition is a faster track to achieving your goal.

Once you decide to participate in a competition, your entire experience of learning and practice changes.  Suddenly, you are more aware of your posture and poise and reaching your arms farther, etc.  You will become goal oriented whether during practice parties while building stamina or in a class with your instructor and yes, especially when you practice on your own.  Essentially your whole learning experience is heightened and you are pushing yourself to achieve more. And wasn't that your goal all along?

The money you invest in your dancing isn't going into your teacher, studio or competition's pocket.  It is going into your dance education, your self improvement, your confidence, your poise and posture, your weight loss goals, your health and your relaxation; all of which leads to a happier you.  And if you win a few ribbons in the process, it's an exciting added bonus!

When you have successfully completed a competition, you will have improved your dancing more than if you took ten lessons in one day!

Talk to your instructor and join us for our next competition! 

One of the most over looked aspects of partnership dancing is something called "clean footwork".  It is one of the first fundamental concepts that the beginner dancer should try to understand and incorporate into his dancing.  It is also a concept that the advanced dancer continually tries to master.

"Clean footwork" means simply being on one foot at a time.  This implies that one foot has 100% of the weight and the other 0%. In partnership dancing this is not true.  The free foot has about 2% of your body weight and the supporting foot has the other 98% (the free foot doesn't leave the floor).

Why is "clean footwork" so important?  The lady doesn't dance patterns.  She dances one step at a time, the step that she can feel.  When the leader has "clean footwork", the follower can feel through the frame which foot he is on and respond accordingly. In addition, when the leader has "clean footwork", he doesn't have to remember to move with the left foot or the right foot.  He simply moves with the free foot.  The very worst thing a leader can do is to be on both feet at the same time.  The follower can't react fast enough to feel which foot he is going to use.

The frame connects the two halves of the partnership together.  The dance partnership now has four feet on the floor all of the time.  The partnership should never be off-balance with four feet on the floor (two feet with 2% each and two feet with 98% each).

The lady depends on the leader’s movement to be initiated from his supporting leg. The lady cannot feel what is going on in the leader’s free leg. Clean footwork accommodates the lead from the supporting leg.

"Clean footwork" occurs at the completion of a step (a complete weight change). During the transition of a complete step (the movement from one supporting foot to a new supporting foot), the weight of the body moves from the supporting foot (98%) towards the free foot (2%) until the previous free foot is now the new supporting foot and the previous supporting foot is now the new free foot. The body weight reaches a point at which there is equal weight on each foot (50% - 50%). This is called split weight. The leg with the most weight on it is supplying most of the power for the movement. If leg "A" is the supporting leg and leg "B" is the free leg, you can see that leg "A" starts off supplying most of the power during a step. Once you go slightly beyond split weight, you can see that leg "B" will start providing the majority of the power. The goal in partnership dancing is for both legs to be working all of the time and both legs to be supplying power all of the time. It sort of feels like you push with leg "A" until you get to split weight, then pull with leg "B" to complete the weight change. Your partner is doing the same thing because she can feel your movement and will add to the power of the step. You now have 4-WHEEL DRIVE POWER in your movements.

"Clean footwork" is one of the fundamental starting points for partnership dancing. If you can get just a hint of it in your movements, you will be way ahead of the game. It is an absolute essential for advanced dancers to develop this aspect of movement to its highest level. So for all of you out there, put it in 4-wheel drive and let's go dancing!!!

 

SHARING THE JOY OF DANCING

 

Most men learn to dance from the ground up (by the mechanics) and most ladies learn from the music down (by feeling).

Let's compare learning to dance to learning to read for the very first time. When reading we first need to be able to recognize the letters in the alphabet. For example, we see the letter "C" as a circle that doesn't connect on the right side. After a while, we just see the letter "C". We don't even think about a circle with an open side. After learning the alphabet, we start putting short words together like "COW". We first see C O W then eventually we see "COW" as a single entity. Small words and syllables become recognizable without seeing the individual letters. Then words or syllables are combined into larger words (ex: COWBOY). You no longer see six letters, you see the whole word. The more you practice reading, the easier it is to read ahead so you can read aloud smoothly and easily. Your brain recognizes the words and phrases through your eyes ahead of you speaking the words. You develop muscle memory that automatically produces the sound of the words and phrases.

In addition to recognizing the mechanics of the letters, syllables, and words, you need to know how they sound together. These words spoken in English, French, or German, for example, would have very different sounding characteristics.

Now let us compare this learning process to learning a box step pattern. Learning which foot, which direction, the footwork (heels, toes, inside edge), timing, etc. would be comparable to learning the alphabet. Learning the forward element of the box (forward, side-right, backward) would be comparable to a small word or a syllable (COW). The whole box (forward and backward element) would be comparable to the whole word or a more complex word (COWBOY). The character of the dance (rise/fall, smooth, etc.) would be comparable to the accent of the language being spoken (English, French, German, etc.).

When learning to dance, you must progress from recognizing the details (letters), to recognizing the elements (syllables), to recognizing the patterns (words), the same as progressing with your reading. Many men never progress beyond the details. This results in a very mechanical, robotic dance style. You must develop muscle memory of the details, then the elements, then the patterns. This frees up the mind to plan ahead while muscle memory dances the patterns. The only way to develop muscle memory is repetition. The same is true in becoming a good reader: "Read a lot".

This learning process is basically the same for the man or the lady, however, the lady is pretty much at the mercy of the man because he is leading and creating the feeling for the lady. The lady can dance only as well as the man leads. The lady must learn to recognize from muscle memory the feeling of the elements being led and try not to anticipate the pattern.

I hear a lot: "I don't want to dance or practice because I may be doing it wrong". If you don't practice you will never know if you are doing it right or wrong. Actually, there is no "RIGHT" or "WRONG", there is just "BETTER", as long as you have fun and no one gets hurt!!

Many men try to learn too many patterns all at once and as a result can't do any of them very well. Concentrate on the quality of dancing each element. You will soon realize that new patterns are just a different order of elements or maybe there is only one new element to learn in the new pattern.

Once you understand the process, your learning curve will shorten.

 

Source:  Sharing the Joy of Dance

Ballroom Dancing can be hard on the knees, but it doesn't have to be if you are aware of what causes this problem. The main culprits contributing to knee problems in Ballroom Dancing are: the Dance Floor, Dance Shoes and Dance Technique.

Dance Floor

The dance floor should allow your feet to slide but it shouldn't be slippery. Too sticky and your feet won't have a natural swivel and this torque will be transferred to your knees.  This is not usually a problem for a ballroom dancer; however, occasionally you may attend events that may not have the ideal surface.  In this case you will have to change the way you move to limit the impact on your knees.

Dance Shoes

Ballroom Dance shoes should be just like the dance floor, allow your feet to slide but they shouldn't be slippery.  Real Ballroom Dance shoes are designed to allow natural movement of the shoe on the floor enabling you to swivel on both the ball and the heel of the foot.  Many new dancers wear “Dance” shoes but don’t realize that these aren’t designed for ballroom dancing but for other types of dance that require a difference experience.  If you haven’t yet invested in Ballroom Dance shoes consider choosing a shoe with soft leather soles.  In addition the woman should consider a shoe with a comfortable heel height for her.

Dance Technique

The Dance Technique of "BODY ROTATION" is probably the biggest threat to the knees, even if you are on a good floor and have the proper shoes. Generally speaking, rotation of the "body" is accomplished by "swiveling" and "Turning". In Latin/Rhythm dancing, the rotation is accomplished by "swiveling" on the feet. In Smooth/Standard dancing, the rotation is accomplished by "Turning" through the ankle, leg and hip. Keep in mind that there are always exceptions.

A "swivel" is the rotation of the body as a result of the action of the shoe on the floor. The rotation occurs only between the sole of the shoe and the floor (nowhere else in the body). To accomplish this, the ankle, leg and hip has to be toned enough to transfer all of the rotation to the shoe/floor surface. If the ankle, leg and hip are too relaxed, the majority of the torque of the rotation will be transferred to the knee. It is not a good idea for the knee to be exposed to this type of torque. In addition to the tone of the ankle, leg and hip, the knee of the "swiveling" leg should be slightly bent. This bend causes the "swivel" to occur on the ball of the foot instead of a flat foot (this reduces the friction of the "swivel"). The ball action is initiated by the bent knee, not by lifting with the ankle. The "swivel" has basically unlimited rotational possibilities (half turns, full turns, double turns, etc.).

A "Turn" is the rotation of the body as a result of the rotational flexibility of the ankle, leg and hip only (There may also be a very slight natural "swivel" action as well.) Try this: hold your arms out in front of you with your thumbs up, now "turn" your palms down, then "turn" your palms up. Notice that you "turned" your palms up and down through the rotation of your wrist, arm and shoulder. The ankle, leg and hip can rotate the foot in the same manner. This accommodates a smooth, even, controlled rotation of the body. The ankle, leg and hip need only be slightly toned to accomplish this rotation. The "turn" is limited in the amount of rotation (usually about 90 degrees or less). Trying to "turn" too far will create torque in the knees.

The dance technique of "LATIN/CUBAN MOTION" is another potential problem with the knees. Stand sideways in front of a full length mirror and step backwards and lock your knee (It is best to do this bare legged.). Most dancers have a slight hyper-extension backwards, but some have a scary amount of hyper-extension. "Latin/Cuban Motion" facilitates hyper-extending the knee, primarily on the backward step. The goal is to keep a straight leg on the backward step, and not allow the hyper-extension. This may be accomplished by employing a "Samba Tic". If someone would pretend to punch you in the stomach, your reaction would be to pull your abdominal muscles in to protect yourself. This is basically a "Samba Tic". In "Latin/Cuban Motion", you want to have this "Tic" all of the time when you dance, but it tends to slip out. The solution is to re-pull in the "Tic" on every step. Now back in front of the mirror. Pull the "Tic" in and step backwards. Your leg should be straight (no matter how much hyper-extension you have). Looking at the leg in the mirror, release the "Tic" and you will see your leg hyper-extend to some degree.

It is not uncommon for new dancers (untrained dancers) to try to execute all rotation as "turns". This is a real problem when dancing the Latin/Rhythm dances because most of the turns are more than 90 degrees. Generally speaking, Latin/Rhythm dances use "swivel" and Smooth/Standard dances use "turns". This is important to protecting your knees.

 

Source: Sharing the Joy of Dancing

One of the biggest problems of controlling movement and balance in Ballroom Dancing is maintaining the mass of the partnership. Under normal circumstances the center of gravity is considered somewhere around two inches below the belly button. In Ballroom Dance balance is best achieved by keeping the mass of the partnership as low to the floor as possible. So "How Low Can You Go?"

Picture an inflatable punching bag. It's about 4 feet tall and is weighted at the floor. No matter how often you punch it, it will always return to its upright and balanced position. If we placed the weight higher up in the bag, it would never return to its upright position. Let's apply this concept to Ballroom Dancers.

So add legs to the bottom of the bag imagining the bag to be the torso and we have a complete dancer. This means that the mass of the dancer is well below the conventional center of gravity of a person and is now where the legs come together in the pelvic area.

Here is an exercise that will demonstrate how your body should feel.
  • Sit in a straight back chair; lean against the back and relax. You will be sitting on your cheeks.
  • Now roll forward over the "pelvic sit bones" (The bony parts that you feel when you sit up straight on a firm surface.) and sit up straight. Notice that your whole torso will be toned and erect and you lift your chin naturally. Repeat this paying attention to how your body responds and feels.
  • Now allow your pelvis to feel a little heavy (like the sand weight). Place your arms in dance position and stand up maintained that slight heavy feeling in your pelvis. Repeat until you can maintain that slightly heavy and toned feeling while you are standing in dance position. 
This is what your body should feel like when you Ballroom Dance. This will also eliminate the problem of being too relaxed or too stiff while dancing.

Because the partnership is physically connected high up on the body through the frame, dancers tend to move through the frame instead of the low mass of the partnership. Let the torso sit on top of the slight heaviness. Move the heaviness, turn the heaviness, rise and fall through the heaviness, power through the heaviness, etc. The rest of your torso will follow.
 
This doesn't work if you only try to turn it on when you dance.  You have to make that toned and upright feeling part of your life, so it is there all the time and you don't have to think about it.  In your everyday life, walk with that slight heaviness and upright toned position. Put your seat back up a little in your car and sit in that upright toned position as you drive. You will feel more alert and in control. Let this become part of everything you do in your daily life.
 
Our goal in Ballroom Dancing is to move and act as "ONE" on the dance floor. That "ONENESS" is achieved by combining the two dancers through the lower mass of the partnership. 

 

 Source Material:  Joy of Dance

Private lessons offer individual training and coaching for either singles or couples.  The benefits of private dance lessons include:

  • One-on-one attention from the instructor
  • Greater opportunity for answers to questions, concerns, issues
  • Fast-track learning because of direct assistance
  • Greater development of precision in lead/follow skills
  • Allowing the instructor to fine-tune technique (such as posture and frame)
  • Greater attention to nuance and styling

A group dance class is often the first dance lesson experience for a couple just learning to dance. Group lessons offer a number of benefits, the chief of which are their relatively low cost and their social atmosphere.

On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to group dance lessons. Instructor attention is spread over a larger group, so individual dancers may not get as much help as they need. Also, shy individuals may find higher stress and challenge in a group situation.

Because group and private dance lessons each offer significant benefits, we offer programs that will combine the best of both worlds.  We develop programs to suit the needs of the individual or couple in terms of how fast they learn, what specific training they need, what dances they want to learn, the level of dancing they want to achieve, all balanced against their available time and budget.

Give us a call at (508)752-4910 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Having trouble learning new patterns and pattern sequences?  Don't get bogged down in all the tiny details in the whole pattern or sequence. View the pattern at the highest level, then work your way down to the finite details.

Look at the pattern or sequence that you are learning from an "Element" view point. Observe the progress of the pattern from Element to Element". You now know how the pattern moves from an "Element" sequence. Patterns are just sequences of "Elements". As you look at the "Element" sequence, pick out the "Element" or "Elements" that are new to you. Now work on just the new ones (not the whole pattern sequence). As time goes on, there will be fewer and fewer new "Elements". Eventually a new pattern will be just a reordering of "Elements" that you already know. Now all you have to do is learn the sequence of the "Elements".

Generally speaking, "Elements" are a measure of music. In Waltz it would be three steps 1, 2, 3. In Rumba it would be three steps; Slow, Quick, Quick. Learn each "Element" in as much detail as possible. Each "Element" starts in a dance position and ends in a dance position. For example: The Waltz "Forward Hover" starts in "Closed" dance position and ends in "Promenade" dance position. The Rumba "Front of the Box", Starts in "Closed" dance position and ends in "Closed" dance position. As you observe the dance pattern, you can see it progress from dance position to dance position. This is a great help for the leader to know where the partnership is going to start and end in the "Element".

It is very important that the dancer learn the correct footwork associated with each "Element". For example: the Waltz "Front of the Box" footwork (from the leader's point of view) is Heel/Flat, Ball, Ball/Flat. The Rumba "Front of the Box" foot work is Ball/Flat, Ball/Flat, Ball/Flat. The footwork for Waltz creates Rise and Fall. The footwork for Rumba creates Latin/Cuban Motion. Footwork is a key ingredient in creating the character of a particular dance.

The use of the legs is also very important. Waltz utilizes the lowering and the straightening of the legs to help facilitate the Rise and Fall of the body. Foxtrot has Rise and Fall in the ankles but it is absorbed in the knees to prevent the body from moving up and down. Waltz has an up and down body motion and Foxtrot a level body position. Latin/Rhythm dances have pretty much the same foot and leg action to create Latin/Cuban motion.

Some dance "Elements" contain other attributes such as "Sway", "Pendulum" actions, "Syncopations" (In Waltz the timing could be 1, 2, &, 3 instead of 1, 2, 3.), etc. etc. The basic timing in Quickstep is "Slow' Quick, Quick, Slow", but there can be other timings such as four Slows, four Quicks, etc.

All of the above creates the "FEELING" of the "Element" and the character of the dance. Learn each "Element" thoroughly and understand its "Feeling". Now stringing the "Elements" together into a pattern or into longer sequence will not be such a daunting task.

 

SOURCE:  Sharing the Joy of Dancing

 

 

No, we're not talking Olympics! Ballroom dancing classes and competitions are often broken up into bronze, silver and gold categories. Learn what they mean!

Ballroom dancers come in all shapes, sizes and ability levels. While some are professional, executing highly complicated and difficult choreography with grace and style, others are content to learn a few steps to get them around the dance floor at the Saturday night dance. There are many levels in between each extreme, and the bronze, silver and gold designations help to put some order to it all.

Bronze, silver and gold levels of ballroom dancing each have their own syllabus of steps, goal for the dancer and difficulty level. Learning what they mean help the dancer know where they belong based on their skill level. Many ballroom dancing group classes are grouped by these designations.

Bronze Level Ballroom Dancing

Bronze level is the most basic level of ballroom dancing, and this is where all new students should start. The goal of this level is to teach the dancer good balance, rhythm and how to move their body. They learn how to dance with a partner and work as a team.

In American Style ballroom dances like Waltz and Foxtrot, there is very little “continuity”, which is where the dancers pass their feet and flow into the next step. Instead, they end most patterns by bringing their feet together. The patterns in bronze level tend to be fairly simple, although they increase in complexity and difficulty as the dancer moves from beginning bronze to intermediate bronze and then to full bronze.

Silver Level Ballroom Dancing

When the dancer has mastered the basics of bronze level, they are usually ready to move on into silver. This is when ballroom dancing really gets fun—the steps flow more gracefully from one to the next, and the dancer learns to make bigger movements with more turns and arm styling. They are expected to use good technique, balance, partnering skills and do it all with flair.

While the beginning silver steps are more difficult than bronze, they are still fairly easy and most dancers can execute them with varying levels of success. For example, bronze level dancers often add silver steps to their repertoire, but they do not execute them as well as they should. As one moves up the syllabus toward full silver, the patterns become much more demanding.

Gold Level Ballroom Dancing

Gold level is the highest level that the syllabus goes to. Dancers at this level have even better balance and perform even more difficult patterns than silver level dancers. At this level, it becomes very apparent if the dancer has not established a good foundation in their dancing, because they are unable to perform many of the steps at all, let alone well.

Open Level Ballroom Dancing

“Open” in a ballroom competition means that the performed steps do not have to adhere to any syllabus. Choreographers for these events are able to either modify syllabus patterns or make up their own. Dancers who do open level choreography should have a firm grasp of all of the syllabus requirements. This allows for a lot of creativity and fun.

By starting at the bronze ballroom dancing level and moving up through gold, a dancer gets a good foundation in technique, balance and partnering skills.

 The dilemma Ladies are faced with when Ballroom Dancing is trying to adjust to the leader. The lady has to figure out what to do when dancing with a variety of different dancers. Remember, there is no wrong in Ballroom Dancing, just better (as long as there is no blood spilled or pain involved). Unfortunately, leaders come in all different sizes, shapes and skill levels. What is a lady to do?

Have you ever felt, "I can't dance because I can't figure out how to follow". If that is the case then very likely you have never experienced a real lead.  Always remember "Never apologize for not being able to follow". If there is no lead, you can't follow. If there is no lead or very little lead, the lady has to know the same dance patterns that the leader knows. The leader starts a dance pattern; she recognizes it and dances it. The first leader a lady dances with may know 2 patterns but the next leader she dances with may know 20 different patterns, etc., etc. It isn't reasonable to expect the lady to know every dance pattern that exists. If the lady doesn't recognize a pattern, she typically tries to figure out what to do. By the time she figures it out, it is already too late to be able to respond appropriately. So, the ladies goal is to become a "TRAINED DANCER"!

What is a "Trained Dancer"? A "Trained Dancer" knows how the lead and partnership works. The lady needs to be able to "FEEL" what to do, not try to figure out what to do. The communication between the partners is what the lady needs to understand. Many dancers have the impression that the "Frame" is the only lead. The "Frame" is important but it is just a part of the total lead. The leader's partnership relationship, weight distribution, footwork, connection, power, center and body shape are just a few things that need to be understood to become a "Trained Dancer".

Here are a few things that the lady needs to understand. 

1) Generally speaking men approach dancing from a mechanical point of view and women approach dancing from a feeling point of view.

 2) The leader must have his weight on only one foot at a time. This allows the lady to feel which foot is free.

 3) The lady needs to be aware that many leaders don't hear the music (They are focused on partnership, patterns, timing etc.). The lady must feel and dance the leader's body to be able to maintain the partnership. 

4) The leader must power (move) from the supporting leg. The lady can't feel movement initiated from the free leg.

5) The leader's frame needs to be there all of the time. The leader's frame has a tendency to melt as the leader focuses on other things. The frame is a key communication link for the lady. 

6) Typically the leader is taller than the lady. The lady should never try to dance up to the leader. She can't maintain her balance in this position. 

7) If the leader has no footwork (example: Waltz rise and fall), it makes it more difficult for the lady. Footwork is an important aspect of the lead. 

8) The partnership offset is a significant part of the lady's ability to be able to respond to the various leads. The lady needs to try to maintain her own offset position in spite of the leader. 

9) Many men are "Pattern Dancers". They don't "lead"; they just dance their part and expect you to dance your part. 

The above is just a partial list of the ladies challenges.

The difficulty for the lady is that there are so many different leads; weak leads, partial leads, wrong leads or no leads. The lady's mind goes crazy trying to figure out what do. Does she guess what to do or can she feel what to do? In the perfect world, the lady dances one step at a time, what she can feel. This seems like a lot of effort on the ladies part but it is well worth it. Being a "Trained Dancer" allows a lady to dance with the highest level dancers and it makes it much easier to dance with beginning and lower level dancers. The "TRAINED DANCER" can dance comfortably with anyone.

 

 Source:   Sharing the Joy of Dancing

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