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2cocos

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Reply with quote  #1 
Hi, I am new to this forum so please be patient [wink] Sorry for the long post.

My DD8 has been dancing at the same studio since the age of 3. She loves dance and would take classes every day if she could. Up until now, she has been enrolled in rec classes: ballet/tap combo, jazz and recently hip hop. Her highest evaluations and her favorite type of dance has always been ballet, by far. She has some friends, a year ahead of her, that made the comp team last year and she was determined to work hard to make it this year. I feel that she has hugely improved as a dancer as a result of her determination and focus.

I also enrolled her in a once a week classical ballet class at another school because I felt that she was not getting enough ballet (only about 45 min per week), and she was asking for more hours of dance (she is now dancing 4 hours per week).

The level of instruction in the rec classes is decent quality but no longer meets our needs. So it is either the comp team or another school. My guess is that the quality of the instruction for the comp team is good since they do send a handful of kids every year to top ballet schools and intensives (mostly in Canada, we are in Montreal). Also, they do pretty well at competitions, but I would not say they are on par with the very top studios in Ottawa or Toronto, with the exception of a few very talented dancers (and I have noticed over the last few years some of them will leave for the local ballet schools, but not all).

My daughter's preference is the comp team. I think she is attracted to the performance aspect and the trophies. But, I am thinking more and more that a ballet-focused school might be a better choice for her. We have a few really good ones locally, she has friends at one of them and she is open to it. Her classical ballet teacher gave me some amazing feedback on her last week and it really got me thinking. She will be nine before the year end, and I do not want to delay proper training for too long.

I have scheduled an evalution in a few weeks with a ballet school that we are considering. She is also trying out for the comp team at her current school a couple of weeks after that. But, I am not sure that our decision should be based on the feedback but what is the right choice longer term. Or maybe I just let her do the comp team, see how it goes? She will get a lot more dancing and performing hours this way, and then I can always move her to a ballet school in a year or two? The girls who did this seem to be doing extremely well at their new schools.

Oh, and lastly, the ballet schools we are considering do enter some competitions and showcases, but it is much more limited. Their focus is the 2-3 performances they put on every year.

Any advice from anyone who has been there? Also, any recommendations for dance schools in the Montreal area (we are still shopping)?

BTW, the comp school prevents them from taking classes at any other school. They make us sign a contract and you are kicked off the team if you are caught. I had considered doing both (about 9 1/2 hours of dance a week total, a lot but she could handle it) but it isn't an option.

Thanks in advance!



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brightblue

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Reply with quote  #2 
I am by no means an expert, but have a daughter in the same age group (she'll be 9 in the fall) so I'll give my opinion for whatever it's worth.

The good news is that you have plenty of time, she's just beginning her real ballet training, and if she decides to change to a strictly ballet school in a couple of years she'll still be in her early years of training. Conventional wisdom seems to state that 8-9 year olds should be taking at ballet at least twice a week, might still by okay with an hour-long class, 1.25 hr maybe better (someone correct me if that's wrong). Our ballet director recommends 3-4 classes a week for 9-10 year old kids who are serious, looking to go en pointe, etc. My DD is going from 2 to 3 weekly classes this summer. 

Just my opinion obviously, but I'd let her decide. I have a young, but very ambitious, passionate dancer (comp kid, took abt 9-11 hr/week this past year at age 8). I think it's my job to get her as much information as possible, find her mentors to talk to, discuss my perspective - basically provide the adult brain for the team - then let her decide from there. I do see, though, parents on this board who have pried their kids out of a school to which they were attached but wasn't serving their needs and had everyone come out happier in the long run.

Competition really is fun at this age, and personally I'd let her try it out if she wants to. good luck with your decision
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2cocos

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Reply with quote  #3 
Yes, the fun and team aspects are a real draw for her, but her favorite classes are her more serious ballet classes. If we were to go to the ballet studio we are considering, she would be dancing ballet 2 times a week (2.5 hours), and other types of dance (jazz, contemporary, etc.) in addition.
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jlm645

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Reply with quote  #4 
At 8, with two options you are comfortable with I would probably let her choose what sounds like more fun to here.  Doing a year of competition and moving to more ballet at 9 is not going to hurt her if she decides to do that. 
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Mitzy

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Reply with quote  #5 
If she is on the comp team, how many ballet classes will she have, and how long will they be? What type of education and experience does the ballet teacher have? That will make a difference to my answer.

My daughter switched from comp to ballet at 10, at it was certainly not too late, but she had as many as 6 hours/week ballet classes the 2 prior years. It was her choice to switch, but she wouldn't have made the same choice at 8.
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2cocos

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Reply with quote  #6 
Good points. I don't have that info yet but I am going to find out. Total class time is 7 hours per week, including time to practice for routines. She would be unable to continue the supplemental ballet classes.
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theyarg

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Reply with quote  #7 
I am just sorry I did not switch DD to a ballet studio around that age.  She was on comp and loved ballet.  She wanted to do a ballet solo, which she did from age 7-10, but the amount and quality of ballet instruction wasn't there.  The problem wasn't that it was too late in terms of her training to switch, it was too late in that she was HOOKED on competitions.  Not knowing any better I really didn't realize the sub-par instruction she was receiving, especially in ballet.  Now that she got hooked on comp, there was no way she was going to be happy within the confines of a true ballet studio.  I look back now and wished I had gotten her into a ballet studio around age 8, before she got so caught up in the comp world.  I guess we both drank the kool aid for a while.  She is out of the comp scene now, but her technique has suffered and it really is too late for her to be up to where her peers in a ballet studio are.  Yes, she can still take open classes and such, but I see kids in the ballet studios who left around age 8, who love being in the ballet studio.  That is just my experience.  I know training differs everywhere and all kids differ.
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2cocos

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Reply with quote  #8 
It is exactly why I am not so sure about letting her into comp for a year or two. Honestly, I am worried I will get just as hooked she will!

The two ballet studios I am considering have small advanced/elite teams that do a few comps, but only about 3-4 per year. Some of those students are transfers from our comp team, very talented girls who placed top 12 YGAP regionals, granted they were with our studio at the time.
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dancermom128

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Reply with quote  #9 
I think it's a huge red flag that your child is only going to be dancing at the school 7 hours a week and they won't allow her to take supplemental ballet classes. At 7 hours a week including rehearsal my guess is there isn't a ton of ballet. Not that she needs to be taking a ton of ballet at that age but I can't see why a school wouldn't be ok with an extra class in ballet. For me personally, unless you're paying my child, you don't get to tell her what she can and cannot do in her spare time.
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2cocos

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Reply with quote  #10 
I agree. My daughter might not be the most talented at this point but she loves dance and works really hard at it. I'm worried that she will not have access to the best teachers here. It seems like they want to avoid poaching or losing money to other studios. They know we are taking other classes at this point, and have not seemed annoyed about it, but we are in rec so it would be ridiculous if they cared.
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tappinmom

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Reply with quote  #11 
Any studio that doesnt offer adequate ballet (for whatever reason) and then will not allow their dancers to supplement sounds a little fishy to me.
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2cocos

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Reply with quote  #12 
Thanks for all your advice. Everyone here has been extremely helpful. If anyone else wants to chime in, I am all ears.

I think the next step is to ask the studios a lot more questions and try to find a few parents of older kids at both schools that can give me their perspective.

Honestly, I am leaning more and more towards the ballet school, for a lot of reasons. The only thing that is missing is that "team" aspect but I have no doubt my DD will get that at some point in another capacity. She is still really young.
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tendumom

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Reply with quote  #13 
My dd is much older, at 18 now. Crazy to say that when it feels like only yesterday we were making similar decisions. She did start at a comp school and loved her ballet class there. She eventually switched to a ballet school around age 9 or so. She would have switched sooner but she really wanted to do competition. In her case, it turns out what she was attracted to was two fold- the camaraderie of the team and the performance opportunities. 

She very quickly found that and more at the ballet school. She found dancers who were even more like-minded than her comp friends. These friends also enjoyed the focus that ballet requires. As far as the camaraderie, that came about from doing the ballets- Nutcracker and the spring ballet. They also had a spring performance (aka recital). 

From my wallet's point of view, tuition was higher at the ballet school but the other costs were far less- no or minimal costume costs (minimal as in a few dollars), no comp fees or associated travel costs, etc. It doesn't sound like it, but it was significant. 

Something dd's jazz teacher said to us way back when. She recommended that I take dd to a ballet school. She said she can always come back to jazz and other genres and she will only be stronger for it. She was 1000% correct!
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mcshells

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Reply with quote  #14 
It's hard to switch studios once your child is settled, likes the teachers and has friends. 

If you go ballet and get drawn into the Nutcracker world etc. it might be hard for them to switch to comp.

Vice versa - when you get wrapped up into the comp world it is easy to think that's what dance is. 

Know what you're getting into in the long term. Yes you can switch studios and people do it all the time. BUT... it's hard. 

I think about it sometimes and 'wish' we would have gone the ballet route; however, we don't have a true ballet school here anyway. The ballet school we have has entered the comp. world and I don't think has any better instruction. 

My daughter's comp studio focuses on ballet AND the girls can participate in a full-length ballet show every other year with our local ballet company. It's the best of both worlds, But after almost 8 years in the competition world, I'm kind of over it. My daughter would never switch studios and there really isn't a reason to... Anyway, my point is to really think about what you want out of this. 

At the end of the day, for 90% of these kids - this is their hobby. Yes we want them to succeed at it but it's just a hobby. An after school activity so where is she happiest and what fits into your life/budget etc. is important, too.
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heidi459

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Reply with quote  #15 
At her age my advice would be to encourage her to go where her heart is right now and not worry about the long term.  If she wants to give comp a try for a couple of years, there could even be some advantages to having that experience behind her if she chooses to switch over come 11/12/13.  If ballet is what she is really drawn to, switching now would make perfect sense.  She really is very young and even though one class a week isn't the best, it really isn't all that unusual.  Plenty of amazing 15/16/17 yr olds only had ballet once a week at the age of 8.  Some didn't have any at all.

Fwiw my own dd had what would be probably be considered rec level training until the age of 10.  Once a wk combo classes.  At 11 she really started to up her hours & joined the comp team where she stayed for 3 yrs.  Now, at 15, she just finished her 1st year at a very serious ballet studio.  Was she behind?  Sure, but she's catching up pretty quickly. The training at the comp school was no where near what it is at the ballet school but it was pretty good & she'd been supplementing on the sly since about 12.  Open classes, wkshps, conventions, summer programs.  My attitude was that if there wasn't a conflict of interest & it didn't interfere w/her commitment to the comp studio it was none of their business.  And if they found out & threw her out it would've been worth it.   This approach has allowed to her to experience it all which I think almost gives her a bit of an advantage.  She's able to see a much bigger picture than if she had been restricted to a single program throughout her dance training.   And I have to admit that there is something I see in her dancing that I don't see in a lot of those dancers who've been serious ballet dancers at serious ballet schools since from the get-go.  I don't know... just a little food for thought perhaps [smile]
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dancemonkey

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Reply with quote  #16 
It sounds like the ballet school offers jazz too! I'd go that route. As much as I love competition it's a money pit. And by the time she gets into high school she might still do it but she'll be over the glitter and trophies. If she's serious about ballet let her go that direction. If it doesn't work she can move back to competition. If she loves tap and hip hop then I'd say go to a comp studio. I must tell you I think you are thinking very clearly. Good luck with your search!
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2cocos

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Reply with quote  #17 
This is all such great advice that will help me know what to ask when I go to talk more seriously with each school.

At this point, I feel like I prefer the ballet school because most of my money would be going towards paying a high quality teacher (they are a non-profit). In comp, there is a lot of money spent on fees, costumes, etc. I do feel like our current studio tries to make money wherever they can, by overcharging for small things and pushing other money-making programs. It will probably just get worse with comp. But, it's nothing I feel is out of the ordinary or that I can't live with, just annoying more than anything.

My daughter has her heart set on comp (I've tried to gently talk her out of it, to see how far I could get), and that does mean something. I also love watching competitive dance so for a year or two, it could be a lot of fun. We have agreed that if she does not make the comp team (very possible, they have a large rec pool and only 7-8 girls are selected), we are going to one of the ballet schools. She could always continue with hip hop and tap classes in the rec program.

I think it will become more obvious in the next few weeks once I have spoken with both schools, and a few other people, and have her try out/evaluated. I am not above overriding her wishes if I feel one way is best for her and us as a family. I think she would be disappointed, but I am sure it would not affect her love of dance or willingness to take classes.

Keep you guys posted! Thanks again.
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jlm645

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Reply with quote  #18 
Quote:
Originally Posted by heidi459
At her age my advice would be to encourage her to go where her heart is right now and not worry about the long term.  If she wants to give comp a try for a couple of years, there could even be some advantages to having that experience behind her if she chooses to switch over come 11/12/13.  If ballet is what she is really drawn to, switching now would make perfect sense.  She really is very young and even though one class a week isn't the best, it really isn't all that unusual.  Plenty of amazing 15/16/17 yr olds only had ballet once a week at the age of 8.  Some didn't have any at all.

Fwiw my own dd had what would be probably be considered rec level training until the age of 10.  Once a wk combo classes.  At 11 she really started to up her hours & joined the comp team where she stayed for 3 yrs.  Now, at 15, she just finished her 1st year at a very serious ballet studio.  Was she behind?  Sure, but she's catching up pretty quickly. The training at the comp school was no where near what it is at the ballet school but it was pretty good & she'd been supplementing on the sly since about 12.  Open classes, wkshps, conventions, summer programs.  My attitude was that if there wasn't a conflict of interest & it didn't interfere w/her commitment to the comp studio it was none of their business.  And if they found out & threw her out it would've been worth it.   This approach has allowed to her to experience it all which I think almost gives her a bit of an advantage.  She's able to see a much bigger picture than if she had been restricted to a single program throughout her dance training.   And I have to admit that there is something I see in her dancing that I don't see in a lot of those dancers who've been serious ballet dancers at serious ballet schools since from the get-go.  I don't know... just a little food for thought perhaps [smile]


My daughter's path was similar, and she was clearly behind when she transferred to better quality ballet training.  But in 2 years she has moved much faster than she would have at 8, and had caught and is starting to pass "normal" her age at the studio (not an all star - but there's no guarantee that she would have been an all star at this point anyway).  She was a 12 year old with in class with mostly 8-9 year olds, then she was a 13 year old in class with mostly 11-13 year olds, and next year she will be a 14 year old with mostly 14-15 year olds. 

She had the experience of comp and rather than getting sucked in, it firmly cemented the direction she wants to go.  And I guess if it had sucked her in, then it would have been because she loved it and she would have spent her childhood doing what she loved.  I'm not sure I could really complain about that.  And while I hated comp, I do have to grudgingly admit that there are things she got out of doing it.

I'm not advising you one way or another. I would only say that she is very young and think carefully about taking away the part of dance she loves most right now because you think she is missing out on something she may not actually be missing out on. You aren't making a decision for the rest of her life.  You are making a decision for one year. She will still only be 9 one year from now and nothing will have been lost at 9 that can't be regained.
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Lunafly

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Reply with quote  #19 
Quote:
Originally Posted by heidi459
At her age my advice would be to encourage her to go where her heart is right now and not worry about the long term.  If she wants to give comp a try for a couple of years, there could even be some advantages to having that experience behind her if she chooses to switch over come 11/12/13.  If ballet is what she is really drawn to, switching now would make perfect sense.  She really is very young and even though one class a week isn't the best, it really isn't all that unusual.  Plenty of amazing 15/16/17 yr olds only had ballet once a week at the age of 8.  Some didn't have any at all.

Fwiw my own dd had what would be probably be considered rec level training until the age of 10.  Once a wk combo classes.  At 11 she really started to up her hours & joined the comp team where she stayed for 3 yrs.  Now, at 15, she just finished her 1st year at a very serious ballet studio.  Was she behind?  Sure, but she's catching up pretty quickly. The training at the comp school was no where near what it is at the ballet school but it was pretty good & she'd been supplementing on the sly since about 12.  Open classes, wkshps, conventions, summer programs.  My attitude was that if there wasn't a conflict of interest & it didn't interfere w/her commitment to the comp studio it was none of their business.  And if they found out & threw her out it would've been worth it.   This approach has allowed to her to experience it all which I think almost gives her a bit of an advantage.  She's able to see a much bigger picture than if she had been restricted to a single program throughout her dance training.   And I have to admit that there is something I see in her dancing that I don't see in a lot of those dancers who've been serious ballet dancers at serious ballet schools since from the get-go.  I don't know... just a little food for thought perhaps [smile]


I've heard this from dance teachers as well and I know it also to be true in music. Without good technical training one risks forming bad habits that can limit their potential, or worse, result in injury. However, focusing only on technique can make a performance feel cold and mechanical. I've definitely heard of technically proficient ballet dancers being told they need to work in some modern and jazz classes to help with musicality. I do think though that knowing how to "feel" music is best developed at an early age which is why experimenting with a variety of types of dance in childhood can be beneficial.

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tendumom

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Reply with quote  #20 

Quote:
 I've definitely heard of technically proficient ballet dancers being told they need to work in some modern and jazz classes to help with musicality. I do think though that knowing how to "feel" music is best developed at an early age which is why experimenting with a variety of types of dance in childhood can be beneficial.


ITA. 

At dd's former ballet school, they firmly believed that it took more than ballet to make today's ballet dancer. Jazz and modern were part of the curriculum. They were optional in the younger years, but mandatory for dancers in the conservatory. Unfortunately, I'm not so sure it is still that way. 

I also think there are some that have a natural musicality and some that also have a natural performance quality. Dd has credited both of those things to her early years at a competition studio. I am not so sure. I think some of it is innate. I also have seen some come to it with maturity, something that happens much later for those who have only had technical training... at least something I've observed. Definitely not a hard and fast rule. 

 

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2cocos

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Reply with quote  #21 
Just an update. We have decided to stay at our comp studio where my daughter will be on the competitive team for her age group. In the end, there were a number of things that factored into our decision. First, the comp studio offered several more hours of dance training per week than the ballet school (6.5 hours vs 3.5 hours). She will be in a small class of 8 girls all at a similar skill level. At the ballet school, she would be taking only ballet (recreational) and jazz whereas now she can also take tap, hip hop and acro. Second, she had a very strong preference for her current studio and the comp team. She has friends at both schools and has taken classes at both (and actually, her closest friends are at the ballet school), so she knows the differences. Third, and most importantly, she had her heart set on making the team, stated it as a goal this year and worked really hard and improved a lot to earn a spot. We really wanted to support her efforts.

Worst case scenario, she will get to dance a lot, have the experience of being on a team and competiting (new for her), and have fun. We're going to take it year by year and see how it goes. She is expressing interest in theater and singing classes, so over-focusing on dance might be to the detriment of her other interests and talents.

Thanks so much much for all the advice. Everyone's input was invaluable.
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2cocos

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Reply with quote  #22 
Just a quick update, it has been two years and I've been an occasional lurker on these boards. It's interesting to look back on this post, as hindsight is indeed 20/20.

My DD, who just turned 11, did in fact join the comp team and had a fairly good year. The following year, we ended up relocating to another (smaller) city due to a new job. All of the studios in this new city are rather small (at least compared to our previous studio), and all are comp studios. However, the one I selected was very strong in ballet and tap, possibly to the detriment of other disciplines (e.g. hip hop and acro). But, I figured I would rather she have good quality training in what I consider two very "technical" disciplines.

Anyhow, long story short, she was told that she was behind in her technique for her age/level. However, IMO, a lot of this had to do with a different style at the new studio, if that makes any sense. She spent that year as the new kid and I felt at times she was being somewhat underestimated (in the back in group dances, no small groups or solos, etc.) We were getting slightly frustrated but decided to give this studio one more year. We also enrolled her in a two-week summer intensive at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet over the summer, which was fairly basic (recreational division) but really helped her work on fundamentals.

Well, this year has been a different story altogether. She placed highest level on her ballet exams. She also started doing theatre and was cast in a lead role in a professional play. I'm sure competing helped her somewhat with stage presence, although performance ability has always naturally been her strong suit. She really has only been to 3 comps total over two years, so I doubt it has had *much* of an impact. And, last week, we just found out that she has been accepted to RWB's Professional Division SI. We auditioned on a long shot, and can't believe she will be going this summer (I'm still trying to wrap my brain around my 11 year old being gone for a whole month!) I doubt she would have been successful had she not had the higher quality ballet training. Actually, I'm quite sure of it.

At this point, she is pursuing both dance and theatre/musical theatre, just for the pure love of it. She has no current ambitions to become a professional dancer or actress, but she is still so young, that could all change.  I think the value of all of these experiences will be character building, whether she decides to pursue the performing arts or something more academic down the line.


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