Monday, June 30, 2008

Dancing In KL In The 1970s - Part 1

Back in the '70s, life in Kuala Lumpur ( KL) was sedate and idyllic. There were no traffic jams and petrol was sold at the equivalent of less than RM1 per litre. Television broadcasts were in black and white and the video cassette recorder had not been invented yet. The cinemas were still drawing in the crowds. The personal desktop and laptop computers had yet to make its debut. If you wanted to chill out, the A&W Restaurant and the Oasis Snack Bar in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman were the places to be. For your shopping needs, you went to Globe Silk Store, Robinsons or the Weld Supermarket.

To those who were not around or were very young then during that epoch, life must have appeared to have been pretty boring and uneventful. Well not quite right! It was not exactly dullsville in KL then! If you wanted to go dancing, we had some pretty good discotheques or discos (as they are more popularly known) in KL and the Klang Valley. During the weekends we would go to these nightspots in our groovy clothes to listen to psychedelic music and let our hair down! All these phrases have become passé and would sound Greek to the present generation.

The Time Tunnel was probably the first disco in KL. It was located in a shoplot along Jalan Ampang where Wisma Char Yong (next to the AIA Building) now stands. Parking was not a problem as you could park your car along Jalan Ampang right in front of the disco. To enter the disco you had to walk through a "time tunnel" or passageway of flickering lights. Live bands were in attendance and the place was popular as it was a novelty. The name of the disco was most likely taken from a popular TV sci-fi series of the same name, back then.

The Tomorrow Disco at the Merlin (now Concorde) Hotel at Jalan Sultan Ismail was another popular haunt. The disco had a large circular dance floor and the bands there played good dance music. The Flybaits from Singapore performed there regularly. With their slick showmanship, they were able to attract a legion of fans. Whenever they were in town their fans would flock to hear them croon their hit composition
Kenangan Lalu. The band members would eventually part ways with the leader Fredo forming a new group known as Fredo And The Flinstones.

Further up the road at the Hilton (now Crown Mutiara) Hotel was the Tin Mine. This was the place to be and be seen on Saturday nights. It was the joint where the rich and beautiful hob-nobbed. The interior of the disco was styled around the theme of a tin mine. Many Malaysian bands like
The Strollers, The Revolvers, The Falcons and Alleycats performed regularly there. Some of the bands later became recording artistes and some had successful stints overseas. That era was considered as the Golden Age of Malaysian bands.

Near the KL Race Course (now KLCC) at Jalan Ampang was The Cave. The disco was designed to look like a cave with its columns, stalactites and stalagmites. There were even stucco tables and seats. Unlike the other discos which had live bands, The Cave employed a disc jockey or deejay to spin records. The cover charge here was cheaper and it was popular with the younger crowd.

Over in Petaling Jaya at the Jayapuri (Now PJ Hilton) Hotel, the Glass Bubble attracted a niche clientele from PJ and KL. The dance floor of this disco was sort of enclosed in a "bubble" made of plexiglass. It was designed to contain the dance music within the "bubble" so as not to disturb the other revellers. The Delta, a local band had regular stints at this nightspot. The lead singer was
Francesca Peters who would eventually leave the band to carve out for herself a successful career as a recording artiste. She achieved notable success partnering Royston Sta Maria in a duet known as Roy and Fran. Their song Siapa Dia Sebelum Daku was a big hit then. Francesca later went her own way to become a solo singer.

Then there were also what was known as the basement discos, that is, discos that were operated from the basement of buildings. These included the Federal Club at the Federal Hotel, Where Else at the Hotel Malaya and the Baze at Wisma Central. In addition there were other lesser- known discos. Some were housed in old bungalows and some conducted their business from the first floor of double storey shophouses. What were the dances that were popular during the '70s. I will be writing about that in my future posts.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance Malaysia 2 - Top 14

June 26, 2008

The crowd at the Ruums Bar & Club Kuala Lumpur went wild when host Aishah Sinclair went on to the dance floor to start the show. The show started off with the usual group dance performance by the Top 14 finalists. Aishah then introduced the judges to the audience. Besides the usual trio of Pat, Judimar and Ramli; the guest judge this time was Dida Malik, a UITM lecturer and professed "Preserver of the Malaysian Arts".

We are now down to 14 dancers. Sly & Sim are partnering each other for the first time as their previous partners were eliminated in the earlier round. The couples and the dances they had to perform were:-

1) Belalang & Jorida - Hip Hop

2) Black & Farah - Malaysian Contemporary

3) Hong & Sarah - Lyrical Contemporary

4) Sly & Sim - Lyrical Hip Hop

5) Chee Wei & Sam - Contemporary Salsa Fusion

6) Ray & Cecilia - Contemporary Viennese Waltz Mix

7) Raymond & Jojo - Hip Hop

The dancers are generally getting better and have shown much improvement as noticed by the judges. It is getting to be tough picking out the best couple. My vote for the Most Promising Couple goes to couple number 2, Black & Farah who did a Malaysian Comtemporary Dance. They showed passion in their dance and were able to express the joy of dancing in their movements and facial expressions. The judges complimented them for performing a fun, lively and energetic dance. One judge praised them for being one of the best couples in the competition.

The Least Promising Couple had to be couple number 5, Chee Wei & Sam who had to dance a Contemporary Salsa Fusion . They appeared stiff and there was no salsa character or flavour in their performance. The judges remarked that there was no fire, no passion and no synchrony in their dance. Sam should also have worn a sexier and more appropriate salsa dress for this dance.

After all the contestants had performed their dances it was time for the judges to pick the Bottom 6. They were Jorida, Hong, Sarah, Chee Wei, Sam and Raymond. As expected, Chee Wei & Sam didn't make it to the next round.

We seem to be getting an overdose of Hip Hop and Contemporary dances. Let's hope that we will be able to watch different and exciting genres of dances in the coming episodes.

Best Regards,

Dance Aficionado

Monday, June 23, 2008

Whisks In The Waltz

The whisk is a popular and beautiful dance figure. In the Waltz, the whisk is a three-step dance figure whereby one foot crosses behind the other foot when dancing the third step. Three types of whisk figures are mentioned in the ISTD ballroom dance syllabus. They are the Whisk, Back Whisk and Left Whisk. What are the differences among these 3 dance figures?

For the Man, the Whisk and Back Whisk is danced taking the first step on the LF. For the Left Whisk, the first step is taken on the RF. The Lady of course dances these figures taking the first step on the opposite foot.

In the Whisk, the feet positions for the Man is - 1) LF fwd, 2) RF to side and slightly fwd, 3) LF crosses behind RF in PP. For the Lady it is - 1) RF back, 2) LF diag back, 3) RF crosses behind LF in PP. As the name suggests, the Back Whisk is a figure moving backwards for the Man.The feet positions for the Man is - 1) LF back in CBMP, 2) RF diag back, 3) LF croses behind RF in PP. For the Lady it is - 1) RF fwd in CBMP; OP, 2) LF to side, 3) RF crosses behind LF in PP. The most common ending for the Whisk and Back Whisk is a Chasse from PP.

In the Left Whisk, the feet positions for the Man is - 1) RF fwd and across in PP and CBMP, 2) LF to side and slightly fwd, 3) RF crosses behind LF. The Lady's feet positions is - 1) LF fwd and across in PP and CBMP, 2) RF to side and slightly back, 3) LF back in CBMP. The Lady may overturn slightly to the L on step 3 and turn her head well to the L. The Man should look towards her face, not over her R shoulder. A popular follow is for the Man is untwist on both feet for approximately 5/8 turn whilst Lady runs round Man RLRL (1,2 & 3) and then follow with a Back Whisk and Chasse from PP. This is a beautiful amalgamation and the Lady can help to make it very attractive by the skilful use of her head turns and positions when dancing the figures in this amalgamation.

One sequence which can be used to practise all the 3 whisk figures together is as follows:-

At corner, do a Natural Spin Turn and 4-6 Reverse Turn to end facing LOD. Now dance the Whisk, followed by a Left Whisk. The Man untwists on both feet for approximatley 5/8 turn to R whilst Lady runs round Man RLRL (1,2 & 3). Next do a Back Whisk followed by a Chasse from PP. Repeat the sequence. You should be dancing in a square or box formation. Happy dancing!

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> Dancing The Waltz With Style And Technique

Friday, June 20, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance Malaysia 2 - Top 16

The show on June 19 started off with a group dance performance by the Top 16 finalists. They performed a number which was beautifully choreographed by Ashwar and Yannus. The banner-carrying audience were shouting themselves hoarse and really enjoying themselves.

Ramli Ibrahim was back again to judge the competition together with Pat Ibrahim and Judimar Hernandez. Dance choreographer Yannus Sufandi was invited to be a special guest judge.

The theme for the show was - "A Night At The Movies", whereby the competitors had to performed dances choreographed to songs that were featured in the movies.

The names of the couples and the dances they had to perform were:-

1) Hong & Sarah - Hip Hop

2) Napi & Sim - Cha Cha Cha

3) Belalang & Jorida - Contemporary

4) Sly & Zef - Rock and Roll

5) Ray & Cecilia - Hip Hop

6) Black & Farah - Malaysian Contemporary

7) Raymond & Jojo - Salsa

8) Chee Wei & Sam - Street Jazz

Sad to say, most of the finalists are good in Hip Hop or Contemporary but are generally weak in the other genres. Other than in the Hip Hop and Contemporary, the dancers were unable to express the character of the dances well.

The most outstanding couple was couple number 6, Black & Farah who performed a Malaysian Contemporary dance to the accompaniment of the song aptly titled Senang Tari. They danced with such ease, grace and fluidity. They showed passion in their dance and earned rave reviews from the judges.

There was a tie for the weakest couple - couple number 4, Sly & Zef who did a Rock and Roll and couple number 7, Raymond & Jojo who performed the Salsa.

Sly & Zef had to dance the Rock and Roll to the accompaniment of the song La Bamba. They fumbled and had trouble executing the Lifts and Twirls. Mind you, Zef is not a petite dancer. It is not easy to dance Rock and Roll to La Bamba because there is no Rock and Roll character in this song! The choreographer should have chosen a more catchy tune such as
In The Mood played by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers. In The Mood was first featured in the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade and has since been featured in more than 10 movies!

Raymond & Jojo who danced a watered down version of the Salsa to the accompaniment of the song "Refugio De Amor" were equally disappointing Instead of showing us some slick salsa moves they did more cuddling then dancing. There was no salsa "flavour" in their dance. The choreographer should have chosen a salsa piece with a more upbeat tempo. For competitors who have never danced a particular genre before it would be better for the choreographers to teach them to dance simple basic steps, well, than to dance advance and complicated steps horribly! For these two couples even the judges remarked that there was no character or "essence" in their dances.

The bottom 6 dancers chosen by the judges were Napi, Jojo, Raymond, Zef, Sly and Sarah. They then had to do the customary "Dance For Survival". After the sms votes were received and counted, the 2 dancers who did not make it to the next round were Napi and Zef.

So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) will be organising a series of roadshows throughout Malaysia in the coming weeks whereby you can get to meet the finalists in person. The top 14 finalists of SYTYCD will be in Penang this Saturday, June 21. For more details please check out

Best Regards,

Dance Aficionado
Dancesport Malaysia

Monday, June 16, 2008

How A Dance Competition Is Judged

I have received comments to my posts on So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) from 3 of the top 16 finalists namely; Hong, Black and Sim. They have requested me to give them some pointers on how they can improve their dancing and become better dancers. First of all I would like to congratulate them for making it into the Top 16. I believe they can make it to the Top 10 if they continue dancing with the same passion as they did last week.

The producers of SYTYCD are basically looking for dancers who can dance all genres well instead of just being good in one style of dancing. In short, they are looking for a dancer-of-all-genres. In the last season of SYTYCD, the forms of dances that were performed by the contestants were - Contemporary, Hip Hop, Broadway, Jazz, Salsa, Mambo, Argentine Tango, Ballroom (Waltz & Viennese Waltz) and Latin American ( Cha Cha Cha, Samba & Paso Doble).

This season, I believe the contestants will be required to perform the same genres. By listening very carefully to the comments made by the judges you would be able to get an idea of what qualities the judges are looking for in a good dancer. These are some of the pointers that the judges of SYTYCD have commented on :-

Appearance - Contestants should be appropriately attired for the dance they are going to perform. If you are doing a Ballroom or Broadway dance, a tail coat for the man and a ballroom gown for the lady would be an eye-catcher. For Hip Hop, the grunge look is acceptable. Dress for the dance. Stand tall, look confident and smile at the judges, the spectators and the TV viewers! You are judged the moment you step on to the dance floor.

Posture - Dancers with good posture and poise stand out among the crowd and are quickly noticed by the judges. The way you correctly hold each other, together with the right body and foot positions will enable you to dance effortlessly around the dance floor. When your partner complains that you are "heavy", most probably it has something to do with your posture. So, good posture is very important.

Character - Every dance has its own distinctive character or "flavour". The Cha Cha Cha is a fun, & cheeky dance. The Paso Doble showcases a bullfight; with the man as the matador and the lady as the cape.The tango walks, staccato movements and the sharp head snaps gives ballroom Tango its very essence. Make sure you understand the character of the dance and show it in your body movements and facial expressions.

Timing - The judges had remarked that some of the contestants were off in their timing. Make sure you dance on time, with the right accentuation and rhythmic expression. For example, in the Waltz, the accentuation is on the first beat. For the Cha Cha Cha and Rumba the first step of each figure is taken on the second beat of music (count 2).

Footwork - Footwork refers to the parts of the foot used when making a step. For example "heel flat", "ball flat, "ball", "toe", etc. Forward steps for Latin American dances are "ball flat" with the exception of certain figures in Samba and Paso Doble. Correct footwork is important for the figures to be executed well. In the Ballroom dances (except Tango) the proper use of rise and fall will add expression to your dancing.

Togetherness - Are both of you dancing together or are you doing your own thing? The judges always talk of chemistry between the partners, the flow of energy, synchronicity, etc. Do you have that chemistry and are the both of you dancing together? Both of you should be like two persons dancing with one soul. If you do not dance together, you will soon be dancing your way out of the competition and going your separate ways!

Technique - Technique is the foundation for all dance movements. The use of correct techniques enables a dancer to perform a dance with style and grace. Technique is essential for jumps and turns in contemporary and jazz dances. The use of the supporting leg and sway in Ballroom dances (except for Tango where there is no sway) and the samba bounce and pelvic actions in Samba are further examples where the use of the right technique is important.

Showmanship - Above all, as SYTYCD is also a live TV show, the judges are looking for "artistes" and not just dancers. Do you dance for yourselves or for the audience? Is your dance artistic and entertaining; so much so that the judges will clap their hands and shout "bravo, what a performance"? You must display passion in your dance and connect with the audience. You must be able to express the joy of dancing in your body movements and facial expressions.

To the Top 16 finalists - Good Luck!

Best Wishes,

Dance Aficionado
Dancesport Malaysia

Friday, June 13, 2008

So You ThinkYou Can Dance Malaysia 2 - Top 18

The show which was held on June 12 was telecast live from Ruums, KL and was hosted by the bubbly Aishah Sinclair. The judges were Pat Ibrahim, Judimar Hernandez and the very lovely Linda Jasmine who stood in for Ramli Ibrahim who was unable to make it this time.The placard-carrying audience was boisterous and you could see many uncles and aunties in the crowd. I guess they were there to support their favourite contestants whom I believe also happen to be their children.

Last week 18 contestants were chosen to go to the next round. This time the contestants were paired off with each other again except for Sly and Zef who are partnering each other this time as their previous partners were eliminated in the previous round. The names of the couples and the dances they had to perform

1) Belalang & Jorida - Modern Contemporary

2) Raymond & Jojo - Broadway

3) Sly & Zef - Afro Cuban Contemporary

4) Hanafi & Sim - Lyrical Jazz

5) Ray & Cecilia - Mambo

6) Fai & Zen - Malay Contemporary

7) Chee Wei & Sam - Hip Hop

8) Hong & Sarah - Malay Contemporary

9) Black & Farah - Hip Hop/Salsa

Many of the dances performed were of the contemporary genre. Surprisingly there were no Ballroom and Latin American dances in this round. Could it be these style of dances were too difficult for the contestants to attempt?

Most of the contestants danced fairly well and were appropriately attired for their performances. However you could see that a couple of them appeared tense, nervous or just plain tired. They were not fluid in their moves, made mistakes and could not express the joy of dancing. One contestant in particular put on a long face! That's a big No-No in competitive dancing. Whatever it is, you must show to the judges and the audience that you really enjoy dancing and must be able exude that joy well in your body movements and facial expressions.

My vote for the Best Couple is a tie between couple number 4, Hanafi & Sim who did a lyrical jazz piece and couple number 9, Black & Farah who danced a hip hop/salsa mix. "The best so far, bravo, excellent" were some of the comments made by the judges for couple number 4. As for couple number 9, the judges were equally lavish in their praises with remarks such as "entertaining, perfect, what a performance!".

The Bottom 6 chosen by the judges were Cecilia, Ray, Zen, Chee Wei, Sarah and Fai. After doing their "Dance For Survival" the lines were opened for the audience and television viewers to cast their votes by sms. Fai and Zen did not make it to the next round. Tears were seen flowing on their faces and many of their supporters in the audience very equally moved to tears. Hope we will see more exciting performances instead of the usual contemporary and hip hop stuff next week. In my next post, I will write on how dance competitions are judged.

Best Wishes,

Dance Aficionado
Dancesport Malaysia

Monday, June 9, 2008

Join The Kuala Lumpur Dancers' Association (KLDA) Now!

The Kuala Lumpur Dancers' Association (KLDA) was founded by a group of dance enthusiasts in 1982 and had its initial headquarters at the Eastern Hotel & Nite Club in Jalan Ampang (where Capitol Square is now). Over the years, the KLDA has shifted several times: to Jalan Galloway, Jalan Ipoh, Jalan Sg Besi and Cheras Utama before relocating in early 2008 to its present premises at :-

Level 2, Indoor Sport Complex
Wisma OCM
Jalan Hang Jebat
50150 Kuala Lumpur

The KLDA is situated directly behind the YWCA adjacent to the Olympic Hotel, and is about 600 metres or a 10-minute stroll from the Hang Tuah LRT and monorail stations. It is also near to Jalan Petaling and the Chinatown area.

There are 2 dance halls at the new premises of the KLDA namely, the 'superstar' and 'fame' dance halls. The 'superstar' hall is laid with spring laminated timber flooring, is spacious and excellent for ballroom dancing. The sound system is superb and there is also a lounge for dancers to relax.

Both halls are available for rental and are ideal for private practices, dance lessons, seminars, functions, etc. Ballroom, Latin American, Argentine Tango and other social dances are currently being conducted at the KLDA.

The 'superstar' hall is available for practice from 2.00 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Sundays and from 8.00 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. every Mondays to Fridays. It is not available for practice on Saturdays and certain public holidays. A potluck is also held at the KLDA on the last Sunday of every month.

To join the KLDA as a member, you will have to pay a one-time entrance fee of RM500 and a monthly subscription of RM30. Effective 1st January 2009, the entrance fee will be increased to RM1000. Membership is transferable. For non-members, the floor charges is RM10 per person per visit.

The patron of the KLDA is Datuk Cheong Siew Kai and the incumbent president, C C Lai. For enquiries and bookings, please contact Tramaine (012-2339123), Grace (012-3255380) or Jane (016-2220716).

Best Wishes,

Dance Aficionado
Dancesport Malaysia

Friday, June 6, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance Malaysia 2 - Top 20

5th June 2008

The show was telecast live from Ruums, KL and was compered by Aishah Sinclair. To judge the contestants were Ramli Ibrahim, Judimar Hernandez and Pat Ibrahim. The winner of this competition will 'dance' home with a RM50,000 cash prize and a scholarship from 8TV.

Last week the contestants had been paired off at random and had to perform a dance picked also at random. Luck can sometimes play a part in whether the contestants can proceed to the next round or not. The contestants who were paired off and the dances they had to perform were as follows:-

1) Black & Farah - Hip Hop

2) Ray & Cecilia - Mambo

3) Chee Wei & Samantha - Contemporary

4) Fairul & Zen - Hip Hop

5) Belalang & Jorida - Malaysian Contemporary

6) Hanafi & Sim - Viennese Waltz

7) Sly & Vivian - Argentine Tango

8) Billy & Zef - Street Jazz

9) Raymond & Jojo - Hip Hop

10) Hong & Sarah - Street Jazz

The best couple was couple number 5, Belalang and Jorida. While Belalang is a trained Malay traditional dancer, Jorida learned ballet during her younger days and is not well versed with contemporary dance. The couple however managed to pull it off with a beautiful rendition of the Malaysian traditional dance. The three judges -Ramli, Judimar and Pat were full of praises for them.

There was a tie for the worst dance performance - the Vienesse waltz danced by couple number 6, Hanafi & Sim and the Argentine tango performed by couple no 7, Sly & Vivian.

The Viennese waltz was not the standard Vienesse waltz danced with the natural turns, reverse turns and fleckerls.What was danced was a insipid watered-down version with the couple going round in circles and trying to catch up with the quick tempo of the dance. The couple struggled to dance one natural turn and one reverse turn and it looked very unnatural. Even Ramli remarked that the performance was a total flop!

The Argentine tango performance was a big let down. The couple tried to dance some figures like the ochos, ganchos and cruzadas but looked stilted and amateurish. Maybe to impress the judges, both of them even did handstands! A handstand figure in Argentine tango? Heaven forbid! This is sacrilegious! "No passion" and "tidak ada api (no fire)" were some of the comments made by Judimar and Pat.

At the end of the show the Bottom Four dancers were chosen by the judges. They were Billy, Vivian, Hanafi and Zen. All of them had thirty seconds to perform a "Dance For Survival' to ensure that they survive to the next round. After the sms votes were received and tabulated, two of them - Billy and Vivian were told they were going home.

We are now down to 9 couples. Next week another couple will be told to go home. Who will they be? Don't miss the next episode of 'So You Think You Can Dance Malaysia 2"

Warmest Regards,

Dance Aficionado

Monday, June 2, 2008

Is The Double Reverse Spin Really A Double Reverse Spin?

In ballroom dancing, the double reverse spin is a dance figure used often in the waltz and quickstep. The name double reverse spin is rather misleading as there is no double spin, neither is it danced twice. In this posting I will be talking about the double reverse spin as danced in the waltz

The late dance guru, Alex Moore MBE, in his oft-quoted book 'Ballroom Dancing' has this to say about the waltz double reverse spin - " This figure is rather misnamed as it is not a spin, nor is it necessary to dance it twice. The man does two steps and a 'toe pivot' while the lady does four steps. It should only be attempted by advanced dancers " (italics mine).

The double reverse spin is taught as part of the silver level syllabus of the ISTD. It is a difficult figure to dance for students who have basically learned dancing for a year or so and also for 'weak' dancers who do not use the correct techniques. Personally I feel it should only be taught at the gold level.

What makes the double reverse spin such a difficult figure to dance for the novice? The steps are as follows:- The man takes a step forward on his LF, places his RF to the side and then makes a turn or 'spin' to his L on the ball of his RF and closes LF to RF without weight (toe pivot). At the same time he has to maintain his balance and posture.

For the lady it is even tougher. She has to do a heel turn and continue turning to her L on the ball of her LF as her RF is moved to the side and slightly back. Still turning, she crosses LF in front of RF and finishes by turning slightly on the ball of her RF to complete the turn. The lady has four steps to dance while turning to her left, first on her right heel, then on the ball of her LF and finally on the ball of her RF in three beats of music.

The amount of turn may vary between 3/4 and a whole turn with a timing of 1,2 & 3. Advanced dancers often use the timing 1, 2, 3, & and like to follow with another double reverse spin when dancing this figure; a sort of 'double double reverse spin.'

The double reverse spin is a very beautiful figure when danced well but can look clumsy if not executed properly. What can be a lovely picture of two persons dancing together in perfect harmony can turn out to be an ugly picture of two persons wobbling out of sync!

The dance maestros Marcus and Karen Hilton MBE are masters in dancing the double reverse spin. You can see them using this figure very often in dance competitions and exhibition dances. In their video 'Champions Choice'; they showed what stuff champions are really made of by dancing flawlessly the double reverse spin not once, not twice but three times in quick succession across the dance floor. It was sheer artistry and poetry in motion!

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