Newbie question

Dev

New member
Johny



How come a man walked like that ,danced like that dressed in Red polyester and still got way without being called Gay.
 

cathy

New member
I've found out a bit more about Badia Masabni. She was born in Lebanon but her career was all in Cairo and--here's the interesting part-- she was an actress and dancer before she opened her Casino in Opera Square and starting using the term "raks sharki." This Casino was deliberately modeled on British Music halls for the purpose of attracting colonials, visiting foreigners and wealthy Egyptians who could afford to indulge in semi-Westernized entertainments.

I think this all points to a savvy business woman seeing a great opportunity, and a professional, glamourous, theatricalized dance form growing out of what already existed. I don't mean this as any slight to her artistic integrity either. But I do mean that it was more the case that she realized her target audience would pay to see an idealized, glamourized female dancer in glitzy Hollywood-ized costume, acting seductive, and she knew she could achieve this through a theatricalized version of dance. The fact that she chose female dancers and emphasized the seductive in the way it was staged was part of the business model more than the artistic vision--in my opinion. As I said, we don't know what her personal vision or intentions were, as far as I know. (Though even if a detailed statement of her artist vision did surface and specified this as part of her deliberate intention, I still don't plan to gyrate my pelvis in anyone's face....see my previous post.)

Earlier in this thread, someone quoted a top dancer (was it Soheir? I can't recall) as saying "of course only women do sharki--businessmen wouldn't pay to see a man do it." Again that refers to a place, time, and attitude and a business issue of catering to a specific audience--NOT an artistic issue.

Today there are people who are happy to pay to see men (and women) do what a lot of people call raks sharki, and they are free to do it in an effeminate/feminine and/or seductive style OR NOT. Personally I don't think Badia would have any problem with that. The way I see it, if she was for freedom, she would be happy to see that the dance has gotten freer since her time.

Cathy
 

cathy

New member
I think the analogy of comparing ballet to bellydance is an excellent one. This dance has evolved over the past century and it has changed in its countries of origin also. Male ballet dancers are now accepted and were not at one time, same is happening in bellydance. In Egypt, some of the leading experts/ teachers are male, Mahmoud Reda, Professor Khalil, Zaza Hassan etc. Modern male performers are making an impact and are accepted in Cairo etc Tito springs to mind but i know there are others.
It is far to simplistic to keep harping on about gender essenced dance. People dont talk about ballet in this way so why should we about belly dance. Frankly I dont think it is relevent. Isnt Raks Sharqi more about interpretation of the music, emotion and INDIVIDUALITY?
I totally agree. Cathy
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
Frankly I dont think it is relevant. isn't Raks Sharqi more about interpretation of the music, emotion and INDIVIDUALITY?
Now here is someone who, in ONE SENTENCE, has managed to cut through all the semantics and hair splitting (including mine) and gotten down to the TRUE crux of the matter. This should be framed.

Thank You.
 

cathy

New member
Dear A'isha

As you can tell this discussion has really prompted me to think a lot about these issues. I have a question for you. When Morocco and Tarik dance duets, they are Morocco's choreographies, dances that she also does solo. Are they each doing different dance forms, but together as a duet, even though it's the same choreography? And does it change to another dance form when she does that same choreography solo?

Another question. If some men are doing sharki because they are expressing a feminine essence and others aren't because their essence isn't feminine enough, is there a gray area? Who is in charge of determining exactly what degree of is required to qualify?

And what about women who don't display this "feminine essence." I think you said you had a video of Fifi dancing aggressively. Does that mean she isn't feminine, or that she isn't always doing Sharki?

I am honestly wondering how you sort these issues because I truly do not see them as black and white.

Thanks, Cathy
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Males, etc

Dear Group,
Gosh, there are so many things to respond to here that I am not sure where to start.

Dear Zorba,
I am not sure what I did not respond to that you referred to. Can you please enlighten me? You know that I adore you and would never purposely ignore you!!

Dear Cathy,
The whole purpose of the dance, then, you seem to agree, was that Masabni created it to be a vehicle for the portrayal of femininity, regardless of her motivations. You can not deny the result just because the motivations might have been partly commercial. (Personally, I think that the reason she did this
was both social and commercial, given the times in which she lived, the place, etc. That social situation has value still, as we can see by the story of Dina and her reason for choosing the costumes she does. She is, in her way, continuing the Masabni message. The dance still is about the same things in countries of origin.) Again, it seems like I am getting mixed messages from both you and Tarik about this. You seem to agree that the dance IS a certain thing, but it seems to me,you choose to make it something else. If that is the case, why not just say that YOU personally are making a choice and that the dance itself is feminine essenced, regardless of what your choices about it are. It seems you both are choosing what Tarik calls "possibilities". That makes sense to me. It is not the way it is; it is a choice you are making. Also, it seems you readily accept that some dances are male gendered but not that some a female gendered...??? That does not make sense, considering the culture from which the dances spring. Let's give the people credit for understanding their own dances.


Dear Taheya,
I disagree with the ballet and the Shakespearean analogies because both of those mediums tell stories with characters that are of both genders. The progression for both of them to eventually accept and include actors of both genders is natural since there are characters of both genders, and this does not in any way change the meaning and feeling and essence of the stories as told through those mediums. On the other hand, a very macho belly dancer does indeed change the essence of the dance. Sometimes it is downright awful to see. My stance is that men can and have performed belly dance since its creation, but they must be able to set aside certain attitudes in order to dance it well. When this does not happen, you see instead a clash of concepts that is not at all harmonious or pleasing. I have seen some very famous male "belly dancers" do this. To me it is a perversion of something that has meaning outside the individual dancer when I see this. This dance is not only about the individual, but about a dance within a cultural context as well. We in the West often seem to do our best to forget that.



Someone asked me to define feminine essence. It is a pretty elusive quality in the dance that you know when you see. In this dance it is also entwined with cultural essence and femininity as it is expressed in various Middle Eastern cultures.Set aside any of that and you have a different dance than raqs sharghi. It's like someone said here once about Egyptian dance, you know it when you see it. There is a giving and yielding to the moment, to the music and to the emotional and physical expression of self and culture that happens in a way that is noticeably female. It is a way of being vulnerable and strong at the same time, a way of movement and emotional expression that happens because of that female quality. Almost all women in all cultures understand feminine essence within their own cultural boundaries, usually on an unconscious level. I think it is a thing that men recognize as well, but often can not imitate. ( This is not conjecture on my part. It is taught it in sociology and anthropology classes. There is a name for it but at the moment it escapes me.) Those who get it can be truly wonderful belly dancers. This is an art like any other in that a limited number of people will perform the dance superbly, either male or female.

I hope I have responded to everyone. If not, please let me know.

Regards to all
A'isha
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance etc.

Dear A'isha

As you can tell this discussion has really prompted me to think a lot about these issues. I have a question for you. When Morocco and Tarik dance duets, they are Morocco's choreographies, dances that she also does solo. Are they each doing different dance forms, but together as a duet, even though it's the same choreography? And does it change to another dance form when she does that same choreography solo?

Another question. If some men are doing sharki because they are expressing a feminine essence and others aren't because their essence isn't feminine enough, is there a gray area? Who is in charge of determining exactly what degree of is required to qualify?

And what about women who don't display this "feminine essence." I think you said you had a video of Fifi dancing aggressively. Does that mean she isn't feminine, or that she isn't always doing Sharki?

I am honestly wondering how you sort these issues because I truly do not see them as black and white.

Thanks, Cathy
Dear Cathy,
We seem to be writing at the same time.
I have only seen Morocco and Tarik do the duets on film. They look a little like what the Egyptian dancers do as beledi sometimes. I have film of Nagwa Fouad and others dancing accompanied by men and they are usually doing skits, etc. Duet is not a common thing as raqs sharghi, which is recognized as a solo dance in the Middle East.
Re Fifi: Women can be aggressive and still feminine. Tarik was the one who referred to that quality as masculine. I see aggression as a human quality and not a gender specific one.
Re grey area: I can only say that you can tell, after seeing the dance for many years, when a person has it and when they do not. It's just like after watching the native dancers for many years, you can tell when someone really has that just right quality and when they do not, regardless of their physical technique. It is the thing that lets you know there is a vast difference between say, Suhaila Salimpour and Randa. Both are physically great dancers, but what they portray is entirely different in quality. Someone on this forum, can't remember who, stopped watching anything but Egyptian dancers for a year. After that she could not really explain what the difference was, but it was crystal clear to her eye and mind.
I can sort these issues because I have been watching the dance, doing my best to understand it in cultural context, living my life around the dance for 33 years. At 5 years, I had very limited knowledge. At 10 years I began to see things differently and began to have an understanding of the dance as something that can not be divorced from the cultural context and remain what it is. At 33 years, I am still leaning about the dances of the Middle East and I see that it is a never ending, ever expanding process if we are willing to put aside our own world view and see things with different cultural eyes.

Regards,
A'isha
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
Here, Zorba, hold my popcorn and don't eat too much while I'm writing.

Shanazel's observations of the preceeding debate (aka "two cents worth from the peanut gallery"):

A'isha approaches her vision of belly dance with a feeling of sacred obligation and devotion to the origins of the dance and its evolution in the middle east. She is a purist (I find the term "Nazi" excessively offensive) and a convert to middle eastern expression who is true to her own ideals and those of the Arab community she lives within. This makes her harsh and impatient with those who don't share her particular vision, and garners her quite a bit of resentment in return. A'isha will admit to the validity of westernized dances as long as they are not known by the term belly dance, the only true belly dance being that which has evolved in the middle east and reflects the original feminine ideals presented in Masabni's original performances.

Others,Tarik, Zorba, Cathy and Taheya among them, approach belly dance from a more universal stance. They see the dance's evolution beyond the boundaries of what is done or not done by middle easterners as every bit as valid as middle eastern evolutions of the original concept established by Masabni. They see the expansion of the dance beyond its original intent and gender not as a desecration or rejection of its middle eastern origins, but as a natural and desirable blossoming that keeps the dance vital. Such an attitude does not reject Masabni and her original intent, but acknowledges her contributions and builds on them in ways she may or may not have approved of. Since she has been dead some years, so it would be hard to determine what her attitude might be toward the evolution of belly dance outside of Egypt, much less outside the middle east as it existed in her time.

The main point of contention seems to be who has the right to the designation "belly dancer." A'isha believes the term should is not properly applied to anyone except those dancers most dedicated to that interpretation of "belly dance" that she and her Arab friends and other like-minded people embrace. Those who have a wider definition of the term resent the implication that their interpretation of the dance is acceptable only if it is acknowledged at best as a bastardization of Masabni's original concept, and should therefore be called something that does not even remotely suggest that what they do has any thing to do with the middle east.

It appears to be as much of a standoff now as it was when I first discovered the forum a year and a half ago, but it still makes for very lively and interesting debate.

Can I have my popcorn back now, Zorba?
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Dance etc

Here, Zorba, hold my popcorn and don't eat too much while I'm writing.

Shanazel's observations of the preceeding debate (aka "two cents worth from the peanut gallery"):

A'isha approaches her vision of belly dance with a feeling of sacred obligation and devotion to the origins of the dance and its evolution in the middle east. She is a purist (I find the term "Nazi" excessively offensive) and a convert to middle eastern expression who is true to her own ideals and those of the Arab community she lives within. This makes her harsh and impatient with those who don't share her particular vision, and garners her quite a bit of resentment in return. A'isha will admit to the validity of westernized dances as long as they are not known by the term belly dance, the only true belly dance being that which has evolved in the middle east and reflects the original feminine ideals presented in Masabni's original performances.

Others,Tarik, Zorba, Cathy and Taheya among them, approach belly dance from a more universal stance. They see the dance's evolution beyond the boundaries of what is done or not done by middle easterners as every bit as valid as middle eastern evolutions of the original concept established by Masabni. They see the expansion of the dance beyond its original intent and gender not as a desecration or rejection of its middle eastern origins, but as a natural and desirable blossoming that keeps the dance vital. Such an attitude does not reject Masabni and her original intent, but acknowledges her contributions and builds on them in ways she may or may not have approved of. Since she has been dead some years, so it would be hard to determine what her attitude might be toward the evolution of belly dance outside of Egypt, much less outside the middle east as it existed in her time.

The main point of contention seems to be who has the right to the designation "belly dancer." A'isha believes the term should is not properly applied to anyone except those dancers most dedicated to that interpretation of "belly dance" that she and her Arab friends and other like-minded people embrace. Those who have a wider definition of the term resent the implication that their interpretation of the dance is acceptable only if it is acknowledged at best as a bastardization of Masabni's original concept, and should therefore be called something that does not even remotely suggest that what they do has any thing to do with the middle east.

It appears to be as much of a standoff now as it was when I first discovered the forum a year and a half ago, but it still makes for very lively and interesting debate.

Can I have my popcorn back now, Zorba?

Dear Shanazel,
First, that is not what this debate is about at all. Especially since Tarik would not dream of calling the dance "belly dance"!! This debate is about what the dance is and is not in its native environments. Tarik is not stating that he is doing something new or innovative. He is stating that the dance as Masabni invented it is how he is performing it, that it does not and never has had a true feminine connotation, and that since Masabni was dong it for profit, that somehow negates her original purpose.
BTW I rather resent that you refer to me as harsh, as I am not any more harsh or impatient than others on this list, and in fact seem to have more patience than most before I blow my cool, if you look back over other posts on this forum. I have rarely been the person who calls others "narrow minded", or harsh or any of those other things, until someone else has in some way brought my personality into the mix instead of sticking to the subject at hand. Just because my view point is not politically correct does not mean it is incorrect, especially since those who seem in disagreement can not deny the facts of the dance, and most of the time seem to have no way of backing up what they say other than to say that they want to do it that way. How about if you look back over other threads and posts before pointing a finger at me as harsh? ( Another person on this forum once referred to me as "almost impossibly polite" in the face of some pretty personal and nasty criticism, having nothing at all to do with the subject at hand. At least I stick to the subject until pushed first, and often far beyond that.)
I have spent the majority of my adult life hanging around with Arabs. That is not a crime and perhaps, if people would only open their eyes to it, might just give me some insight into the cultural aspects of the dance.First, I like Arabs as a general rule. I understand them and they seem to at least understand me back in a way that many westerners do not. I am not sure why, but there it is. Secondly, It is THEIR dance. Who better to tell us what it is and is not? If you honestly believe others know more about this dance from a cultural point of view then they do, I would like to know who that would be. I have never met anyone, no matter how long they have been dancing. And the dance in the first and last analysis is a cultural offering, not something that somebody can just make up according to their own needs and wants.
Regards,
A'isha
 
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belly_dancer

New member
Dear A'isha

Thanks for asking.

Oriental dance developed in a certain place and time, under specific historical, social, political conditions, as all art forms do. Badia Masabni was influenced by the ideals and images of the time and naturally took advantage of the available venues for performance, as all artists and performers must. She was not creating this in a vacuum either in the business sense or in the dance and cultural sense. The degree to which the feminine, sexy image was a deliberate part of her artistic vision and the degree to which it developed that way, either deliberately for commercial purposes or unconsciously because of prevailing norms, we can only speculate on. As far as I know she didn't record her inner thoughts and intentions on the dance form and or the rules for what qualities were and were not essential to exercizing her artistic vision to her satisfaction.

I think we do agree on the following: we do not have to be born or raised Middle Eastern, or Muslim, or speak Arabic, or even posess a female body, in order to dance raks sharki. We do not have to wear any specific kind of costume or do it in any specific setting (nightclub or restaurant) in order for it to qualify as raks sharki, even though Badia fell into these categories (Well, I'm not certain she was Muslima but she likely was). These facts from the historical, social setting in which she created the dance are not essential to the dance itself.

I also think we agree on the movement vocabulary, the music, and the feeling for the music are essential to qualifying as raks sharki. As far as I can tell our only big area of disagreement is the "feminine, sexy, slightly naughty essence" thing. I see this as an outer layer style that she applied and many others apply, but which we do not have to apply in order to do the dance.

In the basic, biological sense, all women are feminine and all men are masculine, but as Zorba has said, that's not the sense we're talking about here. In the sense that we all express our selves in dance, women are expressing femininity and men masculinity, but again that's not what we are talking about. I think the "feminine essence" we are talking about include smaller, softer movements, more wrist, coy, flirtatious looks, winking, more open mouth, sighing, deliberately drawing emphasis onto breasts, butt, long hair, flowing movements, drawing the hand down the body. That kind of thing. Like when Samia Gamal, wearing a skirt split up to the waist and a kind of diaper-cover like thing completely showing underneath, is gyrating her pelvis seductively in front of Farid al Attrache sitting on the couch, and he is mopping his face with a handkerchief.

I would argue that even if Masabni et al. deliberately set out to create a new dance form for the specific purpose of declaring an idealized image of glamorous, sexy, womanhood (by either her own personal definition or the definition of her place and time or some combination), we still would not be required to follow her inner intention in order to practice the art. There are Western composers and painters who composed or painted in order to glorify God. Do I have to believe in the same God to play or appreciate those songs or make a painting in one of those schools? No. You can't say my rendition does not qualify because you happen to know my inner intention was not the same as the founder's original inner intention.

In other words, do I have to act like Samia Gamal does in that film with Farid in order to count as doing oriental dance? No-- and neither did she. As far as I am concerned you could leave all that out and the dance would be just as good if not better.

And I don't feel that way because I am narrow-minded or uptight. I would say that I'm open minded when it comes to sex and gender. For instance I am all for gay marriage, have no problem with cross dressing or transgender, am all for legalizing prostitution, and had a pretty wild youth as far as these things go. I don't condemn any consensual sex between adults that doesn't do permanent damage. My deal is that this has all got to be a choice--in art and in life. I or anyone can choose to act sexy by whatever definition they choose. I am not into any cultural dictate or interpretation of any art form that requires me or anyone else to act sexy by some cultural standard or external taste in order to get a stamp of approval. Not because I have any hangup about anyone being sexual or expressing sexuality, but because it just isn't sexy if it isn't a choice.

I agree there are limits to this argument. I could not "choose" to combine pushups and jumping jacks with the oriental vocabulary and have it remain Oriental dance. But I can choose not to act flirtatious, sexy, or "feminine" and I don't think the dance suffers in quality or in essence. Personally I think the sexiest dancers are the very ones who *aren't* acting like sexpots or trying to portray "I'm so hot." I think we agree on this too.

Regards, Cathy
:clap::clap::clap:

VERY well said....
I too think that dancers that "act" or "try to hard" to be something they are not do not have "it"....
however to me the "it" has little to do with "feminine"... I would much rather watch a dancer being her/himself than trying to be something he/she is not.
& the degree of "feminine" essence varies SOOOOOO much among female dancers.... but if they are good belly dancers they are good belly dancers regardless of how much femininity they are oozing.

now I do admit, that when I teach, I talk about how belly dance can celebrate the joy of life, & the joy of being alive in your body, & the joy of being a woman.... because I am a woman, I talk for MY experience.
but.....I see NO reason a man cannot belly dance for the joy of being alive, & the joy of being a man
to me, the essence of the dancer, that elusive thing that comes from inside, when he/she loses herself to the music is what makes a belly dancer. (plus of course the movement vocabulary, & all those other "concrete" things!)
 

belly_dancer

New member
Tarik/A'isha etc. all.....
would be interested to hear your comments/opinions/etc. on this male....


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-FMiH-4Z6k&eurl=http://forum.orientaldancer.net/video-clips-youtube/2582-shik-shak-shok-interpretations-2.html

sorry do not know how to make the screen show up here....
but this video also on post #10 of the Shik Shak Shok thread, in the you tube video section.... think Taheya posted it???

anyhow, if we were all LOOKING at the same thing.... may help those of us who have different picture definitions (of the same word) in our heads...
if that makes sense!
 

belly_dancer

New member


ok... am trying to get over my computer phobia.... hope this works!

OH MY GOD!!!!!! I DID IT!!!
WHEEEEEEEEE
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
Oh, lord, A'isha, all you got out of what I wrote is "you called me harsh, how dare you?" I also said you were a purist and true to your ideals, which I see as positives, but I suppose that is cancelled out by use of the word "harsh." I withdraw the word since I never meant it as an indictment, but saw it as part of the fervor of being an advocate for your vision of dance, along with the willingness to take the resulting heat.

The members of this forum provide an extreme dicotomy of beliefs about what belly dance is and isn't. I vocalized my understanding of this dicotomy, because I find the subject both interesting and curious. I also ventured the opinion that it comes down ultimately to differences of opinion re: what is accepted as belly dance?

Thank you so much for slapping me down, A'isha. I do not understand anything I've read and should not have attempted to make any meaningful interpretations. I acknowledge your moral highground and almost impossibly polite response, and now will take myself quietly back into the shadows with my popcorn.
 

Aisha Azar

New member
Males, etc.

Oh, lord, A'isha, all you got out of what I wrote is "you called me harsh, how dare you?" I also said you were a purist and true to your ideals, which I see as positives, but I suppose that is cancelled out by use of the word "harsh." I withdraw the word since I never meant it as an indictment, but saw it as part of the fervor of being an advocate for your vision of dance, along with the willingness to take the resulting heat.

The members of this forum provide an extreme dicotomy of beliefs about what belly dance is and isn't. I vocalized my understanding of this dicotomy, because I find the subject both interesting and curious. I also ventured the opinion that it comes down ultimately to differences of opinion re: what is accepted as belly dance?

Thank you so much for slapping me down, A'isha. I do not understand anything I've read and should not have attempted to make any meaningful interpretations. I acknowledge your moral highground and almost impossibly polite response, and now will take myself quietly back into the shadows with my popcorn.
Shanazel,
I suppose its okay for you to insult me by referring to me as harsh, but not for me to respond??? Clearly I responded to the other parts of your post as well. Tarik does not even refer to the dance as "belly dance" , and if you misinterpreted that, it is not my fault, nor was I slapping you down; merely informing you.
A'isha


Dear Belly dancer,
This guy is a great belly dancer and has the right essence in his dance to be referred to as such. His movement is controlled and not too macho. He is not expressing his "Manhood" but is content to let the dance be what it is. Watch his hands, and the way he curves into the movement. Also, watch the discomfort in the actions of the guys watching him. They most likely think he is gay and doing something taboo. They are laughing rather nervously at him at times, and turning away. This is very typical of how I see Arab guys act when men belly dance, but not during Beledi. This guy is good. He truly understands the dance itself and does not worry about his image. BTW...... I could be wrong here, but the guy dancing looks rather more Hindi than Middle Eastern...???
Regards,
A'isha
 
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Shanazel

Super Moderator
Shanazel,
I suppose its okay for you to insult me by referring to me as harsh, but not for me to respond??? Clearly I responded to the other parts of your post as well. Tarik does not even refer to the dance as "belly dance" , and if you misinterpreted that, it is not my fault, nor was I slapping you down; merely informing you. A'isha
It is not okay for me to insult you. I am sorry an ill-advised word canceled out my expressed appreciation for your dedication to your vision of dance. I was not being sarcastic or snide, but was recalling a discussion we had when I first came on the forum about how you felt re: your dedication of yourself to the dance, as if it was a sacred calling.

And certainly it is not your fault if I find your responses (your responses, not you personally) aggressive, harsh, and occasionally inexplicable (when did I say Tarik calls it belly dance?). You have every right to say exactly what you think in whatever manner you choose to say it, and if people choose to not take it in the proper spirit, that is indeed their problem and not yours.
 

Dev

New member
BTW...... I could be wrong here, but the guy dancing looks rather more Hindi than Middle Eastern...???
Regards,
A'isha
Dear Aisha, The Yellow Brazil guy is not doing Bollywood move, If that what you meant. He is too static for Bollywood. And there is no such things call Hindi dance. Yes most of the Bollywood movies done in Hindi and Hindustani, which is a mixture of parisian and Sanksrit words and few bits of Arabic.

Regards
Dev
 

belly_dancer

New member
Dear Aisha, The Yellow Brazil guy is not doing Bollywood move, If that what you meant. He is too static for Bollywood. And there is no such things call Hindi dance. Yes most of the Bollywood movies done in Hindi and Hindustani, which is a mixture of parisian and Sanksrit words and few bits of Arabic.

Regards
Dev
I think she meant his looks!

also A'isha.... thanks for your comments... I really liked his dance.

& of course none of my business.... but it not seem imho that Shazanel was trying to insult you.
 
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