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Lok Virsa – Birmingham Hippodrome 30th March 2019
Spring was slow to appear in March this year but the sun burst through the clouds on Saturday the 30th  March just in time for Lok Virsa at the Hippodrome, in the centre of Birmingham. 

I had heard wonderful tales from other colleagues about Lok Virsa, a one day arts festival or ‘mela’ of free arts activities and pop-up performances for all the family, but I was not prepared for the joyous carnival atmosphere that was to burst upon the streets of Birmingham and fill the beautifully decorated Hippodrome with the vibrant sights and sounds of the Indian Subcontinent.

The afternoon began with a lively procession through the bustling streets of Birmingham with passers by drawn in by the stunning costumes of the dancers and hypnotic rhythm of the drums.




The energy and exuberance of the procession was even enough to stop the traffic in its tracks:

Crowds gathered outside the Hippodrome as the musicians and dancers opened the afternoon festivities with a wonderful selection of dances and invited the public into the Hippodrome for an unforgettable day of music, dance and arts activities for all the family.


My role for the day was to greet visitors and let them know what was happening and what events were taking place.  This was no easy task as over 5000 people came along to enjoy all that Lok Virsa had to offer. The time flew as I chatted to people who wanted to learn more about Sonia Sabri Company. We had lots of enquiries about the different dance and music classes that we offer inspired by the stunning performances on the day.  I was also responsible for overseeing our great group of volunteers. These students willingly gave up their Saturday to help where needed, from decoration of the Hippodrome in the morning to supporting the artists throughout the day and ensuring that they had sufficient art supplies for the popular art activities. As I zoomed around the building, I also took the opportunity to snap pictures and videos of all the activities to share on social media.  The dance and music workshops were full of enthusiastic participants and I loved seeing the concentration on everyone’s faces as they focused intently on learning new steps and rhythms. The joy on their faces when they were able to follow the steps was so wonderful to see.

The free art activities were popular with young and old.  Visitors were able to try out calligraphy, rangoli and book binding as well as block printing and it was great that so many who took part were able to take home a memento of their day. The mhendi (henna tattoos) were also extremely popular and the designs were intricate and exquisite.

It was lovely to speak to families that had never visited the Hippodrome before or seen the style of music and dance and art activities that make Lok Virsa such a vibrant and exciting festival. It was also so special to see so many families having fun together, from grandparents to young children; everyone had a smile on their faces.

The atmosphere was carnival like and the magnificent spaces of the Hippodrome echoed with music and laughter. The beautiful film screening of “Dastaan with Sarvar Sabri” accompanied by live music and the eloquence of the poetry readings brought the day to a dignified and serene end.

I feel so lucky to have been a part of this colourful and fun filled day and I am looking forward to the next Lok Virsa – watch this space, as we may well be coming to a town near you very soon!


Photo credits: Anisa Fazal, Liv Buckland, and Lisa Godsal
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Dastaan with Sarvar Sabri

After an afternoon spent in the colourful and vibrant Shoreditch in London I could feel my anticipation rising as I took my seat in a small theatre at RichMix for the evening performance of “Dastaan with Sarvar Sabri”. I have attended many concerts and seen many films before but I wasn’t sure what to expect from “Dastaan” which was described as a riveting experience of live music, film and dance.  The stage was bare save for some seats and a blank screen. As the audience filed in and the lights dropped the studio was filled with an air of anticipation. We were all intrigued to see what the evening would bring. Although I had been lucky enough to see the musicians in rehearsal the actual performance was so much more dazzling than I had expected.  It was uplifting, exquisite and moving and so unlike any other live performance I had seen before.

This was my first experience of “Dastaan with Sarvar Sabri”. The performance space was intimate and we felt very close to the musicians on stage. Sarvar Sabri opened the show and by way of greeting, he introduced all the musicians. The atmosphere felt welcoming and even the younger members of the audience were put at ease and relaxed into their seats to enjoy the first half.  Each musician in turn gave us a little explanation of their instrument and the origin of the music that they were going to play. The music selection was eclectic and engaging. They were all interesting, beautiful and unique in their own way but the segment that really took my breath away was Sam Fox on the harp. The combination of her voice and the gentle rhythm played on the harp combined with the melodic tones of the welsh lullaby were mesmerising, evocative and beautifully haunting.


Photo credit : Anisa Fazal

After a short interval, the performance continued with a poignant silent film featuring Persian calligraphy by Mehdi Jamali and dance from renowned ballet dancer Marion Tait (Birmingham Royal Ballet). The musicians provided a musical backdrop to the film, in solo or group ensembles as we watched the images unfold. There was also spoken word segments that echoed the emotions displayed on the screen. The audience around me were rapt and I found the relationship portrayed in the film very moving and tender. 




The memory of the performance stayed with me long after the evening had finished. Marion Tate’s performance was sublime and she was able to evoke suggestions of loss and love with the most delicate of movements. The echoes of the music especially the beautiful chords of the harp lingered in the air even once the film had finished. I left the theatre thinking not only of the performance but how it had touched me and made me reflect on my relationships and how quickly time was passing and how important it was to make the most of life and all that it has to offer. 

Each performance of “Dastaan with Sarvar Sabri” is unique and the atmosphere created is subtly different depending on the venue and audience. 

It will be so interesting to perform in a library setting at Cherry Hinton in Cambridge on Saturday 18thMay where there are still some tickets available:

We are also looking forward to continuing the tour of this unique and thought-provoking show at the University of Leicester’s Attenborough Arts Centre on the 24thMay:




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The Festival vibe!

There is nothing quite like the thrill of performing on a stage in front of an audience. Unless of course that stage is outdoors! It is so special to be able to perform at an outdoor venue or festival where often the audience are within touching distance of you performing and the atmosphere is upbeat and full of energy. 
The ambiance of a music festival sparks a light inside anyone watching. The energy pulsating through the crowd is almost tangible and unites everyone there in perfect harmony. If you've ever been to a festival, you will know what we mean. A good festival experience will consist of meeting people you never normally would, listening to the sweet melodies of music you've never heard before and making wonderful memories you can keep with you for the rest of your life.

At Sonia Sabri Company we have been lucky enough to perform at a variety of festivals around the world and come rain or shine, alfresco events are unique and offer a fantastic experience both for the performers and the audience. All the hard work and hours of rehearsal are worth it when you catch a glimpse of members of the audience enthralled and captivated by your performance.  






Our outdoor events often incorporate the basics of Kathak, which give audiences an insight into this joyous and rhythmic Indian dance. Footwork, spins, rhythmic choreographies and the art of storytelling through mime, gesture and facial expressions are often explored accompanied by live music on a variety of instruments! The beat of the drums is infectious and it is wonderful to see young and old clapping along or tapping their own toes in time to the music. The melodies seem to hang in the air and the special bells worn around the dancers feet add an ethereal note to the performance. It always feels so special to be able to introduce the energy of Kathak to a new audience.
At SSCo music and dancing go hand and hand. Without the music there would be no dancing. The infectious melodies of Kathak encourage audience members to feel and move to the music, it is very much a two-way relationship with the performer and audience feeding off each others’ energy.

Not all performances take place in glorious sunshine, however, and evening performances or performances at dusk can also add a haunting undertone or highlight the passion in an individual or group display. The atmosphere can be even more intense and uplifting as the sun slowly sets and the music echoes through the darkness.



The feeling of looking out from the stage and seeing a crowd of people all having a wonderful time is amazing and one of the best feelings in the world.  We are looking forward to new and exciting performances this summer that will hopefully thrill and entertain no matter what the weather!


If you are interested in catching a live performance by Sonia Sabri Company or would like more information on booking SSCo please email
info@ssco.org.ukor call 01216223135.

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EXCITING NEWS

NEW TEAM MEMBER AT SSCO

We all here at Sonia Sabri Company would like to express a warm welcome to our newest member of the team.


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Lisa has lived in Birmingham for the last 20 years having fallen in love with the city whilst studying at the University of Birmingham. With a degree in English literature and over twenty years experience working in advertising research and event coordination, Lisa brings her love of the arts and organisational skills to her role at Sonia Sabri Company. As one of the leading contemporary South Asian dance and music companies in the UK, Lisa’s role at SSCo is multi faceted and varied with a focus on marketing, administration, audience development, social media and digital engagement. She is very much looking forward to immersing herself in the role and being a part of current creative productions as well as exciting new projects in the pipeline!







 
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The arrival of spring brings with it a new, vibrant dance class:

Asian Folk Dance classes with Sonia Sabri

With a few glorious days of sunshine last week, stunning blossom trees in full bloom and front gardens and grass verges bursting with colour and new growth it really felt like spring was round the corner, bringing with it a sense of hope, excitement and fresh opportunities. April showers may well have returned with a vengeance but this hasn’t dampened the sense of optimism that seemed to have been ushered in alongside the blue skies and gentle golden sunshine of spring. A week into my new job here at Sonia Sabri Company, I am beginning to learn some of the intricacies of the poetic and rhythmic enchantment of Kathak dance. As I sit at my desk I can hear the gentle beat of lyrical music and the tapping and jingling of bells as Sonia uses just movement and expression to tell her complex stories. Kathak is an integral part of SSCo from classical to more urban interpretation and its grace and beauty is evident throughout the company. But to capture the true excitement and joy of spring and new beginnings I am thrilled that the company is piloting a new class for dance enthusiasts, South Asian Folk.  Folk dances are performed to express joy and festivity and are traditionally an integral part of any celebration. Unlike the complexity of Kathak, folk dances are relatively simple with minimum steps and movement but full of energy and vitality. Folk dance is vibrant, colourful and full of joy and laughter and perfectly reflects the hope that spring can bring, a burst of colour after a winter of grey skies, cold weather and bare fields and landscapes. 
If you are interested in learning more about the four week pilot of Asian Folk Dance classes please take a look at our website:
or give us a call on 0121 622 3135


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A Review of Virago






A Review of Virago 


I was interested to learn that Virago had been the result of some extensive research. As a woman, I was grateful to hear this. I've always been interested in listening to other women's stories and the fact that SSCo had clearly listened to other women and had attempted to understand them, made the performance more real for me. I was informed that Virago was not an attempt to victimise women but instead to explore the various elements of a female and indeed, an individual. Some of these themes and elements include the repression and entrapment of women, mental health issues including eating disorders and anxiety.








Sonia's dance art, Kathak was fast paced, energetic and had moments of real pain and power. I was transfixed by the haunting music from the company's musical director, Sarvar Sabri. There is some dialogue scattered throughout which serves to move the story on and add a bit of pathos to the narrative. The majority of the music playing had me feeling as if I had just wandered into a dream, which not only made the performance more exciting but also left me thinking about it long after it had finished.




The dancing itself also had elements of ballet and this translated into the clear ups and downs of life. The best thing about this is that you can tell that it is Sonia's personal style and that it reflects modern society and the experiences she has gone through both as a dancer and as a woman. Personally, I took the fast paced nature of Virago to reflect the frenetic energy of modern life and how hard it is to gain perspective as a person and how hard it is to gain a sense of freedom and voice as a woman.


By far my favourite part of the performance was the imagery that it conjured up. The build up of the broken female, her attempt to overcome the tragedies enforced on her and how these two things correlate in the world of reality and the world of psychedelic fantasy. Sonia's attempt to explore the minds and experiences of women everywhere more than pays off and the dedication and energy shown should be replicated in every other dance show out there.

Virago dates:

The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham, 15th February, 7.30pm;
Swindon Dance, Swindon, 23rd March, 7.30pm.

Photographs by Simon Richardson

Writer and Reviewer: Abigail Remmer




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KATHAK CAMP IS BACK!


FOR KATHAK STUDENTS...

That's right! The successful Kathak Camp is back again by popular demand! This time around it has been our students that have asked for this to return as they were so impressed with the last Kathak intensive!



Venue: Baithak House, 202 Moseley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B12 0RT

Dates: Sat 16th  December – Sun 17th December 2017, 10am-5pm


What is it?
Sonia Sabri Company is offering a fantastic opportunity for Kathak students to immerse themselves into a weekend intensive and inspirational course led by world-renowned artist Sonia Sabri. 

Kathak is profoundly based on the complex foundation of rhythm and percussive creativity. To execute these with a wider rhythmic palette and expressive depth, one must be able to appreciate, analyse and illustrate the Kathak vocabulary.

Sessions will focus on the artform technique, development of vocabulary, creation and execution including recitation, and artform appreciation.



Image by Simon Richardson


Sonia Sabri is an award-winning artist creating and performing world-class productions around the globe. She is a current, leading performing artist who performs regularly and offers a unique insightful learning experience, and a repertoire relevant to today’s arts scene. 

Sonia is also an award-winning dedicated teacher with a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Her generous training and guidance enables students to reach their potential and support those with a desire of developing into the next generation of artists. So come along and immerse yourself on what promises to be an adrenaline boosting experience!


Who is it for?
Kathak Camp is suitable for Kathak students:
  • with a minimum of 2 years training
  • who are dedicated to the study and practice of Kathy
  • who enjoy learning in a fun and focused environment.



Image by Simon Richardson


Additional benefits?
In addition to the above: an insight into technique, style and performance, Kathak Camp offers you some of the following:
  • Professional development
  • Personal development
  • Accredited qualification towards Duke of Edinburgh
  • Accredited qualification towards Arts Award
  • Potential opportunity to perform as part of company's annual showcase Akaar
  • Potential opportunity to join Kathakaars (music and dance performance company for aspiring artists)
  • Potential recruitment as part of Sonia Sabri Company 
  • Opportunity to connect with other dance students and emerging artists.



Where and When?
Baithak House, 202 Moseley Street, Digbeth, Birmingham. B12 0RT
Saturday 16thand Sunday 17th December 10-5pm!


What is the cost?
£60 per person


Enrolment Details
To receive an enrolment form, or for any further queries please contact: Melanie Lewis, Projects Manager. 
Email: mel@ssco.org.uk  or Tel: 0121 622 3135
Deadline to enrol is 5pm Monday 4th December 2017.


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SONIA SABRI COMPANY'S KATHAK AND TABLA CLASSES CAPTURE THE FUN OF INDIAN MUSIC AND DANCE



Bored with the standard gym workout class and searching for something more creative and exciting than Tai Chi in the park, I came across Sonia Sabri's Kathak and Tabla classes. I wanted something that was going to engage me, excite me and keep me entertained long after. Sonia Sabri Company host a variety of different classes for all age groups, covering the beauty and energy of Indian music and dance.

I was excited to attend my first class, ready to learn more about the intricacies of Kathak dance. Kathak is a North Indian dance style that is known for its graceful and fluid movements and its rhythmic footwork. This particular dance is specialised and honed by internationally acclaimed artist, teacher and choreographer, Sonia Sabri, who not only shares her skills and knowledge in class but adds a new perspective to an already inspirational art.

Sonia Sabri Company capture the grace, fluidity and fun of Kathak dance. 

I was also excited to learn about Tabla Percussion as well, which is also offered alongside the Kathak dance class. The Tabla is a culmination of two drums, a treble and a bass that are played whilst you are on the floor. This is just as exciting and immersive as Kathak with the group class syllabus being spread between learning basic strokes, speed control and rhythm from Sarvar Sabri, who is a well- renowned Tabla master. 

The immersive nature of the Tabla is taught by world-renowned maestro, Sarvar Sabri. 

The best thing about these sessions is that you don't even need to have any experience in either art, as they are taught in a friendly and open manner. However, what you will come away with is a new found knowledge of Kathak and Tabla and maybe even an urge to try it again. The classes are held in Digbeth, Birmingham, only a short 10 minute walk away from the bustling centre of Birmingham's Bullring and Grand Central Station. 

If you would like to try a session and are interesting in having some fun and learning a new art, then contact Melanie Lewis at 0121 622 3135 or get in touch by email at mel@ssco.org.uk. 

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'CRAFTS OF THE PUNJAB'

'CRAFTS OF THE PUNJAB'

There was a real buzz on Saturday 21st October at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. We had been invited by the venue to help celebrate the 'Crafts of the Punjab' exhibition. 

The day was so busy and full of joy and fun! We felt like we didn't stop! There was Punjabi dance and music performances, Rangoli art workshops, storytellers, and so much more!




And on top of that, the participants that took part in the activities were really engaged in what they were doing, and the audiences were totally mesmerised by the performances!

It was great to see so much enthusiasm! Thank you to the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum!

(Image by Mel Lewis)







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LOK VIRSA: BEYOND BORDERS, IS BACK!


LOK VIRSA: BEYOND BORDERS, IS BACK!

I remember the first time I ever saw ‘Lok Virsa’ and became involved in some way with the project was in April 2012 as part of the Alchemy Festival, Southbank Centre. 

‘Lok Virsa’ means the ‘heritage of the people.’ It is this wonderful simplicity that Sonia Sabri Company celebrates by focussing on the beautiful arts and crafts of the Indian subcontinent.


                                                                               


(Image by Sonia Sabri Company)

India and Pakistan share a rich heritage in their customs and traditions, which unites the people of these places, despite political differences. It is this heritage that has transmitted itself to different parts of the world and is now being shared right here in the UK.

The main things that I recollect from the ‘Lok Virsa’ day in 2012 were the vibrant colours of the costumes, the beautiful sounds of the folk songs, the simplicity of the folk dances, the buzz of the audiences, the chitter chatter of workshop participants and the interaction of spectators as they watched the performances. It was a truly amazing and joyful day!

                                                                                                                 

(Image by Pulkit Sharma)

Five years on and ‘Lok Virsa’ still remains to intrigue audiences all over the UK and you’ll be pleased to know that the festival will next be seen at Swindon Dance, 5th Nov, 12pm-5pm.


https://www.swindondance.org.uk/event/lok-virsa-beyond-borders/










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KATHAK AND TABLA CLASSES


DID YOU KNOW...?

Working in Marketing for Sonia Sabri Company can be full of surprises. Some days are spent working on a laptop completing all of the admin jobs, and other days are spent 'out and about' meeting staff of other venues to make sure that everything's looking organised for the next event. 

Take for instance; Saturday 26th August, 2017. This was my first time since joining the company (from the beginning of August) in which I spent the entire day not only helping out at the Lok Virsa (South Asian arts and crafts event), but also in watching such amazing performances and workshops!

The day was full of so much energy and the artists all looked wonderful in their colourful clothes!

There were so many routines that the dancers had learnt. It must have taken them hours of practise, and they must have given up so much of their own time to rehearse for such an exciting event.



It makes you think how and where this all begins!

In fact it all starts right here! Yes, here in the studio space of Sonia Sabri Company in Digbeth, Birmingham. 

These fantastic dancers that displayed their skills have and continue to develop their Kathak dance skills through weekly classes. Some have gone into these sessions with very little experience, and some with no experience at all!

So, it doesn't matter if you have danced for years or have no idea of dance. These weekly classes are open to everyone!

Not only that, but there's also classes on offer for tabla too! Again, no experience is necessary!

So, why not come along and join in and have fun?

If you'd like to find out more about these exciting classes, then check out the link below and enrol today!

And who knows, YOU maybe performing in the next Sonia Sabri Company event too!

http://www.ssco.org.uk/learning/learning/classes.html

(Image above by Sonia Sabri Company)








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Night of Festivals South Asia 2017



SONIA SABRI COMPANY SET TO ASTONISH AND AMAZE AUDIENCES
AT NIGHT OF FESTIVALS SOUTH ASIA

Saturday 19th August 

1.15 - 2pm



As part of Leicester's festivities marking the 70th Anniversary of India and Pakistan's Independence, Sonia Sabri Company have been invited to perform at Night of Festivals South Asia 14-19th August. 

This is part of a six day festival that celebrates the spirit of South Asia, exploring Indian and Pakistani heritage; past, present and future. 

This spectacular event sees Sonia Sabri Company perform an energetic and vibrant array of folk, classical and funky dance styles.

Join us and other artists on an exciting journey in which the rich and diverse flavours of South Asia will be revealed through not only dance but also through music, visual arts, exhibitions, crafts, food, conversations and much, much more...

This is a FREE event, so don't miss your chance to watch us in action and experience the joys of dance. 



Image by Livvy Buckland 







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Greenbelt Festival 2017


We are extremely excited that an exert of 'Salaam' will be included in the line up of Greenbelt Festival at Boughton House, Kettering, on the 27th August, 7:00pm! 


Since 1974, Greenbelt have had a mission to create spaces, where art, faith and justice collide, hosting a multi-arts festival programme of music, visual and performing arts, spirituality, comedy, talks and discussion. Their commitment to the arts, has made them a great platform for us to showcase 'Salaam.'





Prior to the performance, come along and discover the basics of Kathak, with an exclusive dance workshop, at 12:30pm, which will you give an insight into the joyous and rhythmic indian dance. Footwork, spins,rhytmic choreographies and the art of storytelling through mime, gesture and facial expressions will all be explored!

This will be followed by the highly anticipated presentation of Salaam in the evening! The piece is set to be stunning, cleverly weaving dialogue between exhilarating live music and meaningful storytelling, through Kathak. Acclaimed, Sonia Sabri will command the stage, with her precise, graceful technique and command of rhythm and repertoire, whilst Sarvar Sabri as a gifted tabla player, will provide a deep and unique insight into Indian classical music. 





To find out more- 
http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/artists/salaam-presented-by-sonia-sabri-company/ 






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LOK VIRSA: Beyond Borders
Saturday 26th August


As a company that celebrates music, poetry, crafts and dance, we are delighted to announce that our one day mela event, LOK VIRSA: Beyond Borders, will be returning to Birmingham at the Library of Birmingham this summer!
On Saturday the 26th of August, from 11-4:30pm, we will be celebrating South Asian arts and culture, going 'beyond borders' and reminding audiences of unity despite modern borders and political differences. 


This event is very close to our hearts, as inspirational artists from the Indian sub-continent ,will be sharing their love and passion for art forms such as Dance, Arabic Calligraphy, Mehndi, Rangoli and Block Printing! Its set to be an engaging,inclusive day for all of the family, with a variety of engaging workshops, and exciting Indian traditions activities.

You could find yourself unleashing your artistic and creative side, with a Ajrakh inspired block printing activity, that will not only excite but educate you in the fascinating history and culture of South Asia. 

Or simply being memorized by watching the fast paced and energetic traditional folk dances from the subcontinent!


With not long to go, we encourage you to come and re-discover the roots and ideas behind South Asian music, dance and visual arts, at LOK ViRSA!
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Akaar 2017
  
Akaar 2017 was a success, showcasing the local talent of the Midlands at the Old Rep Theatre on Saturday 1st July. 

The journey began with an open invitation to Midlands based dance and music groups, of all  backgrounds. The responses received was overwhelming, with a variety of emerging talents showing interest.

As the performance day arrived, adrenaline filled the backstage dressing rooms, as the final preparations of the showcase took place. The weeks of intense rehearsals leading up to the performance had finally come to a close, as the dancers and musicians waited for their call backstage. All of the performers shared a passion for classical, folk, Bharathanatyam, Bollywood and Kathak, and were finally ready to perform on the Old Rep Theatre stage, to an excited audience. 

The public were thrilled with the standard of the show, eager to come back and see similar performances! Akaar 2017 wouldn't have been a success, without all of the hard working performers and supportive audience members! 

We hope to see you for another successful Akaar in 2018! 














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