Waangenga Blanco in 'Patyegarang', Bangarra Dance Theatre, 2014. Photo: Greg Barrett

Australian Dance Awards 2015

12 September 2015, Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide

For the first time in its history, the Australian Dance Awards ceremony was held in Adelaide, a fitting location given that 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Adelaide-based Australian Dance Theatre. The recipients of awards this year represented a cross-section of Australian dance styles and performers, as did the program of entertainment that accompanied the awards.

The much-anticipated awards for Outstanding Achievement by a Female Dancer and Outstanding Achievement by a Male Dancer were won by Lucinda Dunn, just recently retired from the Australian Ballet, for her performance in Manon, and Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Waangenga Blanco for his role in Stephen Page’s Patygerang.

Lucinda Dunn & Adam Bull in 'Manon', the Australian Ballet 2014.

Lucinda Dunn & Adam Bull in Manon, the Australian Ballet 2014.

Queensland Ballet walked away with outstanding performance by a company for its production of Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet.

Marilyn Jones and Dr Elizabeth Cameron Dalman were formally inducted into the Hall of Fame for their distinguished contributions to dance in Australia and internationally, and Marilyn Rowe was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Ausdance Peggy van Praagh Choreographic Fellowship, a bequest from the first director of the Australian Ballet, Dame Peggy van Praagh, was made to Lina Limosani.

From a very personal point of view I was thrilled to see photographer Jeff Busby take out the award for Services to Dance. I have used so many Jeff Busby photographs throughout my career as a dance writer for a wide variety of outlets in Australia and overseas, and he has always been incredibly generous with his permissions. A well-deserved award.

The full list of winners is available on the Australian Dance Awards website.

The awards night always includes a series of short performances and snatches of film. The 2015 ceremony was distinguished, I thought, by a brief excerpt from Garry Stewart’s Birdbrain, the first full-length work Stewart made as artistic director of Australian Dance Theatre. While we are now somewhat used to the extreme physicality that characterises much contemporary dance in 2015, and Stewart’s vocabulary in particular, looking at the vocabulary of Birdbrain I was stunned that Stewart had made such a work 15 years ago. There is a whisper that it may be revived next year.

In something of a jaw-dropping juxtaposition, current ADT dancers Kimball Wong and Lonii Garnons-Williams performed ‘Moon Woman’ from Creation, Elizabeth Dalman’s 1970 work for ADT. What a difference 45 years of choreographic development makes, although Dalman’s slow, controlled movement language, redolent of American dance of the 1960s, was carefully realised by Wong and Garnons-Williams.

I also enjoyed the extract from Leigh Warren’s Mayakovsky performed by students of the BA dance program at the Adelaide College of the Arts. Danced to Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia of 1968, it was reflective and soul-searching dancing.

Nominations for next year’s awards can be made now. For information on the process see the Australian Dance Awards website.

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Michelle Potter, 16 September 2015

Featured image: Waangenga Blanco in Patyegarang, Bangarra Dance Theatre, 2014. Photo: © Greg Barrett

Ballet Rambert in Australia 1948

Dance diary. April 2014

  •   Ballet Rambert Australasian tour

I was delighted to find, during my recent research in the Rambert Archives in London, an album, currently on loan to the Archives for copying, assembled by dancer Pamela Whittaker (Vincent) during the Ballet Rambert’s tour to Australia and New Zealand, 1947–1949. What struck me instantly was the fact that this company enjoyed a similarly social time in Australia and New Zealand as did the Ballets Russes companies that preceded Rambert. I hope to pursue this a little further in a later post but in the meantime the featured image (above) is a photo from Pamela Whittaker’s album. Below is another image from that album.

Ballet Rambert in Australia. Horseriding excursion, 1948

Ballet Rambert on an outing in Australia, 1948. From the personal album of Pamela Whittaker (Vincent)

  • Kristian Fredrikson Scholarship 2014

The Kristian Fredrikson Scholarship for 2014 has been awarded to West Australian designer Alicia Clements. For more about Alicia’s work see her website, but below is a costume for the character of Nishi from The White Divers of Broome staged by the Black Swan Theatre Company in Perth in 2012.

Costume by Alicia Clements for Nishi in 'The White Divers of Broome'. Photo © Cameron Etchells.

Costume by Alicia Clements for Nishi in The White Divers of Broome. Photo © Cameron Etchells.

  • Australian Dance Awards 2014

The long list of nominations for the 2014 Australian Dance Awards was released during April. From a Canberra perspective it is good to see a number of nominations with strong Canberra connections, although I wonder whether any or many of them will make the short lists given the fact that so few people outside Canberra will have seen the productions in the flesh. That concern aside, however, I was especially pleased to see Garry Stewart’s Monument on the list for two awards, an individual award to Stewart for outstanding achievement in choreography and an award to the Australian Ballet for outstanding performance by a company. It was also gratifying to see Life is a Work of Art created by Liz Lea and others for GOLD, the group of mature age performers associated with Canberra Dance Theatre, nominated in the community dance category.

'Richard House, Rudy Hawkes & Cameron Hunter in 'Monument', 2013. The Australian Ballet. Photo © Branco Gaica

Richard House, Rudy Hawkes and Cameron Hunter in Monument, 2013. The Australian Ballet. Photo © Branco Gaica

But I noticed that Janet Karin, former director of the National Capital Ballet School, currently kinetic educator at the Australian Ballet School, and also now president of  the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science, is again on the list for services to dance education. Fingers crossed for this one as her contribution to the Australian dance scene has been remarkable over many years and in many areas and she deserves recognition from her peers.

  • Island: James Batchelor

I am looking forward to the opening of James Batchelor’s new work, Island, which premieres tonight at the Courtyard Theatre, Canberra Theatre Centre. Batchelor was impressive when I interviewed him earlier his month (see online link below) but seeing in production what one has written about in advance is always challenging. But Canberra needs more dance of the sophisticated variety. So fingers crossed!

James Batchelor in 'Ersatz', Bangkok 2013. Photo © NDEPsixteen

James Batchelor in Ersatz, Bangkok 2013. Photo © NDEPsixteen

  • Press for April

‘Outstanding skills shown in diversity’. Review of Sydney Dance Company’s Interplay. The Canberra Times, 12 April 2014, ARTS 19. Online 

‘Dedicated Batchelor’. Preview story for James Batchelor’s Island. The Canberra Times, 26 April 2014. Online version.

Michelle Potter, 30 April 2014

Featured image: Ballet Rambert enjoying the Australian bush, 1948. From the personal album of Pamela Whittaker (Vincent)

 

 

Dance diary. June 2013

  • Meryl Tankard

Philippe Charluet of Stella Motion Pictures has kindly given me permission to use clips from some of the work he has done with Meryl Tankard. They include excerpts from a short documentary, Meryl Tankard: a unique choreographic voice, made for Spring Dance in Sydney in 2011, and some excerpts from Tankard’s work Possessed, made for the Barossa Arts Festival in 1995 in conjunction with the Balanescu Quartet. The clips give a glimpse of Tankard’s extraordinarily diverse output (apart from being so beautifully filmed and edited) and make me wonder why works like Two Feet, Nuti and so many others have never been made available commercially.

Here are Charluet’s clips:
A unique choreographic voice;  Possessed.

I still have a few copies of my unauthorised biography, Meryl Tankard: an original voice, available for sale. Ordering details are at the end of this post.
Cover design 'Meryl Tankard: an original voice'The book outlines the story behind Tankard’s magical works. Here are the last couple of paragraphs to my story:

Many people have shared her journeys—her family and friends, her partner in life and art, her audiences, her dancers, and those creative artists she especially admires and who admire her. But there are perhaps two ‘last words’ to this story. One belongs to Meryl Tankard herself: ‘I don’t want to go into a battlefield’, she is reported to have said as she prepared to leave Canberra for Adelaide in 1992. ‘I just want to work’. The second comes from Jim Sharman who recalls seeing Tankard performing for the first time in Wuppertal in 1980: a piece by Pina Bausch, Bausch’s eulogy, or ‘memento mori’ as Sharman puts it, for her recently deceased partner and designer for Tanztheater Wuppertal, Rolf Borzik. Sharman writes:

At one point, a very familiar accent cut the air. Australian dancer Meryl Tankard entered to reminisce about having lost her sunglasses in Venice. It was my first thrilling glimpse of this great artist and future choreographer.

These two comments encapsulate two features of Tankard’s life and work in art. Firstly, her comment about just wanting simply to work highlights her commitment to, and pursuit of excellence no matter what obstacles might be placed in her way or whom she might cross in making her work. Secondly, Sharman’s remark encapsulates Tankard’s ability to couch the serious—in this case loss—behind humour and zaniness. Tankard is perhaps Australia’s one truly original dance voice.

(The ‘battlefield quote’ is from an article by Tracey Aubin in The Bulletin in 1992; the quote by Jim Sharman is from his 2008 autobiography Blood and Tinsel: a memoir).

  • The GOLDS

Canberra is in the somewhat odd position of having no professional dance company but of having a strong youth company in QL2 and a group called the GOLDS that consists of older performers (over 55) most of whom have never been professional dancers. The GOLDS, which is directed by the irrepressible Liz Lea, recently gave four sold-out performance at the National Gallery of Australia as part of Canberra’s centenary celebrations. Called ‘Life is a work of art’, the event took place in front of various works of art and I hope to report a little more fully a little later when I have a little more information—I was at the dress rehearsal and no program notes were available. Suffice it to say for the moment that some pieces worked better than others but that as a whole this was a more than interesting event.

  • Press for June

Big, bravura dancing program article for the Bolshoi Ballet’s Australian season;

‘Happy in San Francisco’, profile of Luke Ingham in Dance Australia , June/July 2013 with an online teaser;

Background story on Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal and her latest work, Opal Vapour, published in The Canberra Times on 1 June;

Review of Garry Stewart’s G published in The Canberra Times on 15 June;

Review of Opal Vapour  published in The Canberra Times on 18 June.

Michelle Potter, 30 June 2013

Meryl Tankard: an original voice FURTHER DETAILS & HOW TO ORDER
‘It brought back so many memories’— Jill Sykes

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‘G’: Australian Dance Theatre

13 June 2013, Canberra Theatre

Dancers of Australian Dance Theatre in 'G'. Photo: Chris herzfeld, Camlight Productions
Dancers of Australian Dance Theatre in G. Photo: Chris Herzfeld, Camlight Productions

Garry Stewart’s G had a short run in Canberra last week. Although it first had a showing in 2008, this was my first opportunity to see it and once again I was impressed by Stewart’s exceptional approach, which combines his unique intellect with his emphasis on the physical. Here is a link to my review published in The Canberra Times on 15 June. It also contains a gallery of photos by Rohan Thomson.

I had previously spoken briefly to Stewart about his interest in an article entitled ‘Giselle, madness and death’ published in the journal Medical Humanities in 2004, which has some bearing on the approach Stewart took. For anyone interested in this background here is a link to the article.

Michelle Potter, 17 June 2013

Dance diary. May 2013

  • Symmetries. The Australian Ballet

Symmetries has come to and gone from Canberra. What a wonderful program it was and people are still talking about it. As a friend said, ‘It had the WOW factor’, and those who missed it are sounding regretful. And I was amused to find Monument alluded to in Ian Warden’s column on the lack of poetry in the Centenary of Canberra celebrations. ‘…the sad fact is we have marked this year almost entirely in prose (with the odd ballet about a building thrown in, of course)’, Warden wrote in The Canberra Times. Such is the instant fame of Monument in Canberra.

Here is the link to a review of Symmetries I wrote for Dance Australia online. Other material, about Monument in particular, is at this link.

  • Heath Ledger Project

The National Film and Sound Archive now has an update to its Heath Ledger Young Artists Oral History Project website. On this site you will find details of those young artists who have been interviewed to date, including extracts from the interviews in some cases. My interviews with Joseph Chapman and Josie Wardrope have some lovely footage included. Here is the link.

I am currently negotiating interviews with two recent graduates from NAISDA, which I hope will be added to the archive in the next few months.

  • Press for May 2013

In addition to articles and reviews relating to the Symmetries program, other press articles in May include a preview of Liz Lea’s InFlight for The Canberra Times, and also for The Canberra Times  a profile of choreographer Garry Stewart, which unfortunately was published more as another piece about Monument when in fact it also dealt with G and other aspects of Stewart’s work.

Garry Stewart rehearsing 'Monument' 2013. Photo Lynette Wills
Garry Stewart rehearsing Monument, 2013. Photo Lynette Wills. Courtesy the Australian Ballet

In addition, some of Australia’s best known contemporary dancers took part in the Dublin Dance Festival in May. Here is a link to a preview article in The Irish Times in which Jordan Beth Vincent and I have some comments.

Michelle Potter, 31 May 2013

Scene from 'Monument', Canberra 2013. Photo: Branco Gaica

Garry Stewart’s ‘Monument’. The Australian Ballet

The buzz around Canberra is that Monument, Garry Stewart’s new work for the Australian Ballet and the Centenary of Canberra, may well be that elusive item, ‘a great work’. Monument elicits shouts, screams and whistles as the curtain falls. Audiences exit the auditorium agog and, returning for a second viewing, I was filled with anticipation and excitement. Its appeal seems to be universal—young, old, dance fans, those who don’t often go to a dance performance—so many are talking about it.

It also sent me back to Parliament House to take a look at Romaldo Giurgola’s imposing Marble Foyer, which was the inspiration for much of the visual design for Monument. It is indeed an imposing, high-ceilinged space filled with marble columns. But Giurgola has frequently expressed his pleasure that few people look for the lifts to get to the next floor. They climb the marble staircase instead. Despite its imposing qualities it exists on a human scale as well. So too Monument. The formal qualities that define it, its reference to the architectural process, do not alienate. They touch a human nerve.

Parliment House Marble Foyer
The Marble Foyer (detail), Parliament House, Canberra

I was also able to take a close look at Mary Moore’s body-hugging costumes made from white lycra with a fine black lycra trim. Three costumes, some designs on paper and a selection of rehearsal photographs are on display in a corridor just off the foyer’s central space.

Here is a link to a PDF of my Canberra Times review of the Australian Ballet’s Canberra program, Symmetries, of which Monument is part. I will be writing more about Symmetries, including Monument, for Dance Australia Reviews, coming soon. There is much more to say, especially about how Stewart has constructed and choreographed the work.

The Canberra Times review is also available online with a gallery of images [sadly no longer available—MP 26/06/2016]. The gallery is worth exploring. It gives some great views of Mary Moore’s costumes and Paul Lawrence-Jennings’ graphics.  Although there is no footage, the image gallery also indicates the nature of Stewart’s choreographic approach. The images by Karleen Minney were taken at a media call and so are unposed.

Michelle Potter, 25 May 2013

Featured image: Scene from Monument, Canberra 2013. Photo: © Branco Gaica

UPDATE, 28 May: My Dance Australia review is available at this link.

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Dance diary. April 2013

  • ArtSound FM, Canberra: new dance segment

Beginning in May I will be hosting a ten minute monthly dance segment on ArtSound FM, Canberra’s community radio station focusing on the arts. The segment will be part of Dress Circle a program hosted by local arts identity Bill Stephens. Dress Circle is broadcast on Sundays at 5 pm and repeated on Tuesdays at 11 pm and my segment will focus on dance in Canberra and surrounding regions. Michelle Potter … on dancing, as the segment will be called, will be a feature of Dress Circle on the first Sunday of each month.

In the first program, which will go to air on 5 May, I will be talking about the Australian Ballet’s visit to Canberra with their triple bill program Symmetries, which opens on 23 May. Leading up to the program I have been talking Garry Stewart about his new work, Monument, and have been discovering some unusual and amusing stories about George Balanchine’s ballet The Four Temperaments. Monument and The Four Temperaments will be accompanied by the pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain in this Canberra-only program.

I will also be sharing some information about Liz Lea’s new work, InFlight, which will premiere at the National Library of Australia on 31 May. InFlight is danced by four female performers who are inspired to become aviatrixes when they see their heros, Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm, taking to the air in 1928 and breaking the trans-pacific flight record.

Alison Plevery and Liz Lea, 'InFlight'. Photos: Lorna sim  Alison Plevey and Liz Lea in costume for InFlight. Photos: © Lorna Sim, 2012

There will be other snippets of news as well, and I hope to have time to look back on some of the dance events I have enjoyed in the previous month.

There was some lovely news earlier this month from Australian Dance Theatre—Elizabeth Dalman has been named patron of ADT for the company’s 50th anniversary year, 2015. Dalman, along with Leslie White (1936‒2009), founded ADT in 1965. White moved on to other things in 1967 and Dalman continued to direct the company until 1975. After a varied career overseas, both before and after the ten years she spent at ADT, Dalman returned to Australia in 1986 and in 1990 founded the Mirramu Creative Arts Centre at Lake George, near Canberra. She continues to direct the Centre and its associated Mirramu Dance Company. Fifty years of ADT will also mark fifteen of Mirramu.*

Elizabeth Dalman in 'From Sapling to Silver', 2011 Elizabeth Dalman in Sapling to Silver, Mirramu Dance Company. Photo: © Barbie Robinson, 2011

I didn’t post my Canberra Times review of Sapling to Silver when it was performed in Canberra in 2011, so here is a link to the review.

  • ‘The fabric of dance’: National Gallery of Victoria

In April I had the pleasure of presenting an illustrated talk, The fabric of dance, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, in conjunction with the Gallery’s exhibition Ballet and Fashion.  In this talk I looked at how the tutu had developed over three centuries or so, and in particular at how its development had been influenced by changes in fashion and by new materials and fabrics that had become available. But, in putting the talk together, I found I was quite unexpectedly wanting to suggest a link between one of the costumes on show in the exhibition and Louis XIV in his famous role as Apollo in Les Ballets de la nuit of 1653, which I did. I am hoping to post the text of the talk, and the accompanying PowerPoint slides, on this site in due course.

One of the images I showed during the talk was of Paris Opera Ballet dancer Carlotta Zambelli, which I was only able to show as a black and white scan from an article first published in the Australian dance journal Brolga in 2005. My postcard of Zambelli was in colour but it disappeared as a result of being lent when that issue of Brolga was being prepared for publication. I despaired of ever seeing it again but it was returned to me a week or so after the Melbourne talk. So for anyone who was at the talk, below on the right is the image in colour, alongside another (also returned to me at the same time in the same circumstances) of Zambelli with an unknown partner in La ronde des saisons in 1906.

Zambelli double

  • The Rite of Spring: Stephen Malinowski’s animated graphical score

I found what I think is an excellent review of Stephen Malinowski’s animated graphical score of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. I mentioned this score in a previous post without making much comment myself although what the animated score did instantaneously for me was bring me to a realisation of why I disliked Raimund Hoghe’s Sacre so much. Hoghe completely ignored the fact that the music has so much colour, drive and rhythm. The colour, drive and rhythm of the music is perfectly obvious when listening to the music of course, but seeing the animated score absolutely drives it home and opens up a new view of the intensity of the music. Here is the link to the review.

Michelle Potter, 30 April 2013

 

* Dalman has always been a strong voice in the dance world and she argued against a name change to Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre when Meryl Tankard became director of ADT in 1993. A brief account of that interlude appears in my recent publication Meryl Tankard: an original voice (2012). In a letter to Dance Australia Dalman argued that the company should not carry Tankard’s name as it was important to ‘maintain continuity and … respect for the historical background of the company’.

Tankard bannerHOW TO ORDER

‘It brought back so many memories’— Jill Sykes
This book is also available in the National Library of Australia’s bookshop until the end of May, and to library clients through James Bennett Library Services

Canberra dance 2013

Today Canberra 100, the Canberra Theatre Centre and the Australian Ballet released their programs for 2013. It looks like Canberra will have a bumper year of dance in 2013—what a change!

The month of May will see the long awaited return of the Australian Ballet to the Canberra Theatre stage due largely, I suspect, to Robyn Archer, creative director of the Canberra 100 celebrations. Archer commissioned a new work from Garry Stewart for the centenary celebrations and Stewart will make Monument on dancers of the Australian Ballet. Stewart can claim a connection to the Australian Ballet School where he was a student between 1984 and 1985 but Monument will be his first commission for the Australian Ballet.

We will have to wait to see how this work develops but media releases currently say that Stewart will engage with the design principles behind the architecture of Parliament House to generate movement. Stewart will have as a creative consultant Aldo Giurgola, architect of Parliament House and a truly generous man who loves the city of Canberra. Fingers crossed for a great world premiere.

Brett Chynoweth & Karen Nanasca. Photo Georges Antoni 2012Brett Chynoweth and Karen Nanasca in a study for Monument. The Australian Ballet. Photo: Georges Antoni, 2012

The Canberra program will also include Harald Lander’s Etudes, a showcase of classical ballet first made for the Royal Danish Ballet in 1948. It has been in the Australian Ballet’s repertoire since 1986 and its inclusion on the program is an interesting one as it too is somewhat architectural in nature. The American critic Arlene Croce one wrote that Etudes shows ‘that classical forms [in ballet] have a structural coherence’. The program of two works has been given the collective name of Symmetries.

The Canberra 100 program is an incomplete listing at this stage but it does include the Canberra Theatre Centre’s program ‘Collected Works Australia 2013’. Symmetries is listed as part of ‘Collected Works’.

In June, also as part of ‘Collected Works’, Garry Stewart will be back with his Australian Dance Theatre and their production of G, a ‘reinvention’ of Giselle. It has photography by Bill Henson and music composed by Luke Smiles, whom Canberra dance-goers may remember from the mid-1990s when he was a dancer with Sue Healey’s Vis-à-vis Dance Canberra. G may or may not stir the hearts of those who are aching for a Giselle fix in their dance lives, but it will certainly deliver a contrast to the forthcoming Australian season by the Paris Opera Ballet, which will be showing a traditional production of Giselle in Sydney in January and February.

Indigenous dance will feature in two programs in Canberra in March. Elizabeth Cameron Dalman will be combining with Albert David, Djakapurra Munyarryun and cultural consultant Uncle Banula Marika to direct The Morning Star a cross cultural collaboration between Dalman’s Mirramu Dance Company and dancers from the Yirrkala community. The Morning Star will be at the National Gallery’s James O. Fairfax Theatre.

Wesley Enoch, a Stradbroke Island man and currently director of Queensland Theatre Company, is artistic director of of Kungkarangkalpa: the Seven Sisters Songline. It will have an in-progress showing at the National Museum also in March and will feature senior desert dancers from the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara lands. This is a pilot performance of a larger work being developed over four years under an Australian Research Council grant.

In July KAGE, a Melbourne-based company led by former Canberran Kate Denborough and her artistic collaborator Gerard van Dyck, will show Team of Life—First Stage at Gorman House. This work is being made in conjunction with the Dulwich Centre Foundation, a charitable association dedicated to responding to groups and communities facing mental health difficulties as the result of significant hardships. Team of Life uses sport, in particular AFL and soccer, to tell stories of the search by young people for different kinds of freedom. The project will be performed by professional dancers and actors and informed by workshops with young refugees and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Team of Life is set to dissolve the boundaries between sport, theatre and identity.

Also in July Bangarra Dance Theatre will bring BLAK to Canberra. BLAK is a new triple bill production about the challenges to and rewards for Aboriginal young people making transitions to adulthood. Daniel Riley McKinley will choreograph Scar, Stephen Page Yearning, and the two will combine in Keepers. BLAK is part of the Canberra Theatre Centre’s 2013 program.

Sydney Dance Company will be back in Canberra in September with two works by Rafael Bonachela: Project Rameau in collaboration with Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and 2 One Another. Project Rameau has grown from Bonachela’s and Tognetti’s mutual passion for the music of Baroque composer Rameau, while 2 One Another celebrates relationships, interactions and the sheer beauty of the human form. Sydney Dance Company is one of the few companies that has toured to Canberra consistently since its beginnings in the 1970s. What a pleasure it will be to see them again as part of ‘Collected Works’.

Dance in Canberra’s centenary year looks promising. Other events and more dance performances are listed on the Canberra 100 website.

Michelle Potter, 5 September 2012

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