Assemblée Internationale

Assemblée Internationale 2023: Centering on Anti-Black Racism

The international ballet training community will come together once again for Assemblée Internationale (AI), April 30-May 6, 2023 in Toronto.

 

Established by Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) in 2009, Assemblée Internationale is an Olympic-calibre gathering of pre-professional dancers and artistic directors from training schools and organizations around the world. A unique and dynamic global event, Assemblée Internationale empowers young artists to develop as leaders and create meaningful connections with their peers. Collaboration is the essential and central value of each version of the festival.

 

The imperative for systemic change at every level of society is abundantly clear. Assemblée Internationale 2023 (AI23) is an opportunity for leaders of the global ballet training community to come together to examine our accountability in advancing equity, create the change needed in our beloved art form and lead by example for society at large. To strengthen the language of ballet and make it more relevant and powerful, the delivery and the creative process of ballet must resonate with and reflect the full diversity of our society. Therefore, AI23 will be centred on anti-Black racism.

 

This version of the festival will be more student-centred than ever before. Students have agency in the development and design of AI23, highlighting capacity to lead evolution within the artform – how it is practiced, delivered, and how it manifests in society.

 

Read the full press release here.

Participating Schools and Performances

In May 2023, the AI23 festival will welcome more than 35 international dance training schools and organizations to Toronto.

 

Blended cast performances created by Canadian and international guest choreographers will celebrate the rich artistry of young dancers. Assemblée Internationale is a powerful opportunity to witness the talent and voices of this next generation of artists. AI23 is the fourth iteration of this week-long event. First held in 2009 with 12 participating schools, the festival was held again in 2013 and last in 2017, involving 21 schools and organizations.

 

View the full list of dance training organizations participating in AI23 here.

AI23 Student Think Tank Group

A diverse international student group has been key to the work, ideation and planning for AI23.

 

The following young leaders, representing their organizations from around the world, are bringing the student voice to AI23 planning:

  • Hannah Howell, The Ailey School

  • Sydnie Holmes, Boston Ballet School

  • Olivia Bourk, Canada’s National Ballet School

  • Kaleb Bland, Dance Institute of Washington

  • Perla Pace, Dutch National Ballet Academy

  • Rilee Scott, New Zealand School of Dance

  • Caspar Lench, The Royal Ballet School

  • Kallum Connor Morris, The School of the Hamburg Ballet

 

AI23 Student Think Tank Alumni:

  • Sarah Moreno, Canada’s National Ballet School

  • Olmo Verbeeck Martínez, Dutch National Ballet Academy

  • Ishan Mahabir-Stokes, The Royal Ballet School

Key Dates and Activities

By centering on anti-Black racism, conversations may further lead to discussions about the definition of “excellence in ballet”, gender roles and body types, responsibilities of “gatekeepers of ballet”, etc.

 

With recognition that the seven days of the festival won’t be enough to cover the depth required of these discussions and explorations, we are approaching the festival in three phases.

 

  1. Educational lead-up

    • Learning Sessions: A series of online panels, keynotes, discussions and education activities will be presented to participating organizations in the lead up to AI23.

    • Performance Component: In addition, students from participating schools will engage in online workshops with artists and choreographers Jera Wolfe, Esie Mensah and Rob Binet.

  2. In-person programming will take place April 30-May 6, 2023 in Toronto, Canada. During the week of the AI23 festival in Toronto, student participants will engage in collaborative rehearsals and performances, working with renowned choreographers, teachers, coaches and—through the Creative Lab—with their peers.

  3. Call to Action: The cycle of this initiative will conclude with a debrief after the in-person festival, with a clear call to action and established timelines so that AI23 will provide the momentum for systemic evolution.

AI23 Learning Sessions

Leading up to the Festival from October 2022 to April 2023, a series of online panels, keynotes, discussions and education opportunities will be presented with and for participating organizations.

 

These Learning Sessions are open only to AI23 participants around the world.

 

For Participants: Each of the eight AI23 Learning Sessions are opportunities to learn, be challenged and grow. Engage fully, listen actively, note your learning and thoughts, and consider where to go from here. Click below to access a PDF tool with questions and prompts that can guide you with each speaker.

Tool for Active Learning and Listening (ENG)     (Spanish)

 

Our Learning Session Speakers have been referring to terrific resources throughout their sessions and we are pleased to compile a growing list of AI23 resources here.

 

Read below to learn about upcoming sessions and stay tuned for information about future learning sessions.

Session 1: Milagros Phillips

Race Literacy and Healing 101: A Foundation for Change. Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Featured Speaker:

 

Milagros Phillips, AKA the Race Healer, is a keynote speaker, TEDx presenter, five-time author, certified coach, and recipient of the 2021 NEW THOUGHT WALDEN AWARD for Interfaith/Intercultural Understanding. Forbes has named her one of Today’s Innovative Leaders. Milagros has spent 35 years consulting, designing, and facilitating strategic race literacy and racial healing programs to enhance Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives. Milagros has touched thousands of lives with her signature Race Demystified program, a compassionate approach to healing from racial conditioning; she delivers life-transforming experiences using history, science, research, and storytelling. Milagros is a columnist with Inc.com and serves on American Ballet Theater (ABT) R.I.S.E. Her latest book, Cracking the Healer's Code-A prescriptions for Healing Racism & Finding Wholeness, is a finalist of the 2022 Book Excellence Award.

 

Race Literacy and Healing 101: A Foundation for Change

 

This is not a regular diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) program. This unique program has a global perspective, is founded on the awareness of the one human family, and is a foundation for transformation. Race Literacy 101 is designed to educate and empower all Assemblée Internationale 2023 participants, providing a framework from which the entire conference can grow. This program draws on the history that we never learned in school, science, research and storytelling. It provides context for our current crisis and introduces essential practices for healing from racial conditioning. It helps participants understand the context of their racial biases, how racial trauma gets passed on and how racial conditioning affects their relationships and their audiences.

 

This 1.5-hour seminar will cover:

  • The 5 dimensions of racial conditioning

  • Where racism lives in your body

  • How racial conditioning derails conversations

  • Lesser-known ancient and modern laws that affect our relations

  • How historic trauma impacts implicit and explicit bias

  • The groundwork for healing and transformation

Session 2: Theresa Ruth Howard

Examining the Shifting Landscape of Dance, and Discovering your Personal Constellation. Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Featured Speaker:

Hailed “a force for change” by The New York Times, Theresa Ruth Howard is a writer, diversity strategist, former ballet dancer and the founder and curator of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet (MoBBallet.org). MoBBallet has been a pioneer in the efforts to create cultural reform that supports the diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism in the field of ballet and the classical arts through education and advocacy, and has expanded the perception of ballet (who it is for and who participates) by re-sorting history with our digital archives.

 

As an advocate, her background as a dancer (Dance Theater of Harlem and Armitage Gone! Dance) and dance educator make her uniquely qualified to target, address and facilitate much needed cultural shifts in ballet leadership. She is an international diversity strategist whose innovative philosophy and approach to the as made her a sought-after speaker, consultant and coach to artistic, executive, and school directors and Board members of ballet, opera, academic institutions and service organizations including: The Royal Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera America, National Association of Teachers of Singing and American Guild of Musical Artist.

 

In 2018, she was a member of the Design and Facilitation Team of The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet, a three-year initiative which assembled a cohort of 21 North American Ballet companies. In addition to curating MoBBallet, Howard collaborated with Peggy Olislaeger in the curation of the Dutch National Ballet’s (DNB) bi-annual conference Positioning Ballet (2017/2019), which convened over 40 European and international companies. In 2019 she was invited to curate their Black Achievement Month photo exhibition paying homage to the legacy of Black Ballet artists who have danced with the company since 1961. In 2019 she was tapped to Howard curate The Royal Opera House’s inaugural Young Talent Festival Symposium, “Exposure, Access and Opportunity: Exploring the Cultural Barriers to Ballet Training.”

 

This work led to founding the Cultural Competence and Equity Coalition (C2EC) a membership-based organization that supports the embodiment of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism and Cultural Competence (I.DE.A.&CC) and works to transform the cultural norms within the classical arts. C²EC is a learning community providing the support, education, and advocacy organizations, leaders, artists, and creators need to reimagine and reshape the culture and the standards of classical arts. Members include: The Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Pacific Northwest Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet and more.

 

As a journalist Ms. Howard, has contributed to The Source, Pointe, Ex- pressions (Italy), and Tanz (Germany), and Opera America Magazines. Currently she is a contributing writer for Dance Magazine. Former New York Times Lead Dance Critic Alastair Macaulay cites her as “One of the most valuable writers on dance today… Theresa Ruth Howard has written some of the most provocative pieces on ballet today”. Her life motto is: “The only way to make the world a better place, is to be better people in it!”

 

Session Description:

 

In dance, we refer to the process of training as a pipeline, which refers to the universal pathway that prepares students’ arrival at a singular outlet: “a professional career”. Unfortunately, it does not envision a multiplicity of outlets that might accommodate a multiplicity of students. Join Theresa Ruth Howard as she takes students down the winding road of her own career(s) as a former ballet dancer, dance educator, journalist, diversity strategist and founder of MoBBallet (Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet), proving that all pipelines and pathways are not straight, and often lead to unexpected but exciting places. She will present her philosophy for incorporating one’s full self into their artist by embracing her theories of "Finding your Fit" and discovering your "The Personal Constellation”. In addition, students will be invited to examine where they fit in the shifting cultural landscape of dance by examining the concepts of active citizenship, activating your activism, and understanding the responsibility that comes with personal agency.

 

Photo Credit Eva Harris

Session 3: Benoit Swan Pouffer

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Featured Speaker:


Benoit Swan Pouffer is the Artistic Director of Rambert and an internationally renowned dance artist and company leader. Born and trained in Paris, he moved to New York where he spent seven years as a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He went on to become the Artistic Director of Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, a post he held for 10 years. His tenure at the helm of the company was described by the New York Times as “a New York success story”, gaining wide acclaim for introducing a new generation of international choreographers to US audiences, being the first there to commission work from artists including Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Alexander Ekman, Crystal Pite and Hofesh Shechter.

 

As a choreographer Benoit has made dance for companies around the world including Ailey2 and Rambert’s early career ensemble Rambert2, feature films, music videos, and Broadway shows. Recently, he directed Note To Self for Rambert, the last of a 2021 series of innovative livestreamed dance works performed, filmed and broadcast in real time on Rambert Home Studio to fans around the world. Alongside directing and choreographing Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby for Rambert in 2022, Benoit will also be the movement director for Max Webster’s Henry V at the Donmar Warehouse. His ability to blend artistically stimulating content with commercially popular work has led to critical acclaim.

Session 4: Misty Copeland, Joan Myers Brown and Camille A. Brown with Silas Farley

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

In Conversation with Misty Copeland, Joan Myers Brown and Camille A. Brown

 

Misty Copeland

 

Misty Copeland is a Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre, the first Black woman to be promoted to the position in the company's 75-year history in 2015. She has performed some of the most iconic classical ballet roles, including Odette/Odile in Swan Lake; Juliet in Romeo & Juliet; Giselle; Manon; Coppelia; Kitri in Don Quixote; and Firebird, to name a few. 

Misty has been featured in several publications, including the cover of Time Magazine for the Time 100, as well as the covers of ESSENCE, Self, ELLE South Africa, Oxygen and Women’s Health. She has also appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes, CBS Sunday Morning, ABC's Good Morning America, NBC's The Today Show and Little Big Shots, celebrating extraordinary young people. 

 

She made her first awards season guest performances in 2019 with Taylor Swift at the American Music Awards and at the 2020 Grammy Awards alongside Camilla Cabella, Common, Ben Platt, and dancers from the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, as well as the televised Prince Grammy Tribute performing with award-winning recording artist H.E.R. Misty made her Broadway debut in On The Town in 2015 and her major motion picture debut in Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in 2018. 

 

Misty started her production company, Life In Motion Productions, and is working on her first project, Flower, a silent arts activism film using dance to help raise awareness about homelessness. She is also featured in an episode of MasterClass, the online series. 

 

Misty is an avid philanthropist and is an ambassador of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, of which she is also an alum, and MindLeaps, an arts education program based in Rwanda that helps young people get off the streets and into an academic setting to help enhance their lives. Misty is the New York Times bestselling author of Life In Motion, Ballerina Body, Black Ballerinas, and a picture book titled Bunheads. She is also author of the award-winning children's picture book, Firebird. Misty’s newest book, The Wind At My Back, in tribute to her late mentor and friend, pioneering ballerina Raven Wilkinson, publishes November 2022. 

 

In 2021, Misty was the recipient of the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest honor.

 

 

Joan Myers Brown, DFA, DHL, DA   
Founder, Executive Artistic Advisor - Philadelphia, PA


Ms. Brown is the honorary chairperson for the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD), an organization she established in 1991. Founder of the International Conference of Black Dance Companies in 1988, a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts and Howard University in Washington, DC. She was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters by Ursinus College and an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of the Arts. Listed in Who’s Who in America and described as an “innovator and communicator,” Ms. Brown’s efforts for dance excellence are only part of her contribution to the field. She was co-chair of Dance/USA Philadelphia. She received the Philadelphia Award and documented in a publication “Joan Myers Brown and the Audacious Hope of the Black Ballerina”, by Brenda Dixon Gottschild. She has received many awards from the City of Philadelphia, the State of Pennsylvania. Brown honored as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania and Outstanding Alumni of West Philadelphia High School. She received the prestigious National Medal of Arts Award from President Barack Obama and the United States Embassy’s Award for Cultural Diplomacy in Skopje, Macedonia. Honored by the American Dance Guild Honoree Award Ms. Brown was also a recipient of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s 2017 Industry Icon Award and the Philadelphia Cultural Funds David Cohen Award in April 2019. Ms. Brown received the distinguished 2019 Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance for her choreographic influence on black dance in America. In April 2022 Ms. Brown received the 2022 Avenue of the Arts. Inc. illustrious Visionary Award along with many other awards. Now from CEOs to cultural icons, Philadelphia has always been an epicenter for trailblazers, ‘The Power List’ Joan Myers Brown featured in the 2022 Philadelphia Style Magazine named as one of the Four top local luminaries to know now.  Most recently Brown was listed in ‘Forbes Magazine’ introduced as one of the 50 Over 50 2022: Women stepping into their Power in Life’s Second Half.

 


Camille A. Brown
Director/Choreographer

 

Broadway: for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf (Tony nominations for Best Direction and Choreography); Choir Boy (Tony nomination for Best Choreography); Once on This Island; A Streetcar Named Desire. Off-Broadway: Toni Stone, Much Ado About Nothing, This Ain’t No Disco, Bella: An American Tale, and Fortress of Solitude. At NY City Center Encores!: Cabin in The Sky and Tick Tick…Boom! Film and television: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Netflix); Jesus Christ Superstar Live (NBC); Harlem (Amazon), New Year’s Eve in Rockefeller Center (NBC). Metropolitan Opera: co-directed (w/James Robinson) and choreographed Fire Shut Up in My Bones; choreographed Porgy and Bess. Awards: ISPA’s 2021 Distinguished Artist, 2020 Dance Magazine Award, Bessie (Mr. TOL E. RAncE), Jacob’s Pillow Dance, Doris Duke Artist, United States Artists, Obie for Sustained Excellence in Choreography, 2 Audelco, and 5 Princess Grace Awards. Nominations: 3 Drama Desk and 3 Lucille Lortel Award Nominations. Fellowships: Ford Art of Change, Guggenheim, TED, and Emerson Collective. Ms. Brown is the first Black artist to direct a mainstage production at the Metropolitan Opera and is the first Black female to direct and choreograph on Broadway in 67 years. www.camilleabrown.org.

 

Photo by Josefina Santos

 

 

 

Moderated by Silas Farley

Silas FarleySilas Farley is the Dean of The Trudl Zipper Dance Institute at The Colburn School in Los Angeles, CA. He danced with New York City Ballet from 2012-2020. He has taught and choreographed for The School of American Ballet, The Peabody Conservatory, The Kennedy Center, Southern Methodist University, The Washington Ballet, Houston Ballet, New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was an inaugural Jerome Robbins Dance Division Research Fellow at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. He is writer and host of the NYCB podcast, Hear The Dance. He has written for Dance Magazine and Dance Index and lectured on ballet at The Museum of Modern Art. He serves on the Board of The George Balanchine Foundation.

Photo by Jenny Douglass

Session 5: Alonzo King and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar

Wednesday, February 1, 2023 at 2 pm EST


Featured speakers:

 

Alonzo King

Alonzo King, Founder and Artistic Director of Alonzo King LINES Ballet, has been called a visionary choreographer, who is altering the way we look and think about movement. King calls his works ‘thought structures’, created by the manipulation of energies that exist in matter through laws, which govern the shapes and movement directions of everything that exists. Named as a choreographer with ”astonishing originality” by the New York Times, Alonzo King LINES Ballet has been guided by his unique artistic vision since 1982.
 


King has works in the repertories of the world’s leading ballet and modern companies and has collaborated with distinguished visual artists, musicians and composers across the globe. His work has been recognized for its impact on the cultural fabric of the company’s home in San Francisco, as well as internationally by the dance world’s most prestigious institutions.
 


Named a Master of Choreography by the Kennedy Center in 2005, King is the recipient of the NEA Choreographer’s Fellowship, the Jacob’s Pillow Creativity Award, the US Artist Award in Dance, NY Bessie Award, and the National Dance Project’s Residency and Touring Awards. In 2015 he received the Doris Duke Artist Award in recognition of his ongoing contributions to the advancement of contemporary dance. Joining historic icons in the field, King was named one of America’s “Irreplaceable Dance Treasures” by the Dance Heritage Coalition. He is a former San Francisco commissioner, and a writer and lecturer on humanity and art. Inducted into the California Hall of Fame, King holds an honorary Doctorate from Dominican University, California Institute of the Arts, and The Juilliard School. 

 

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar earned her B.A. in dance from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and M.F.A. in dance from Florida State University. In 1984 Zollar founded Urban Bush Women (UBW) as a performance ensemble dedicated to exploring the use of cultural expression as a catalyst for social change. She serves as director of UBW’s Summer Leadership Institute and is the Nancy Smith Fichter Professor of Dance and Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor at Florida State University.
 
Jawole has received fellowships from United States Artists (2008), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2009), and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (2021). She received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award and honorary degrees from Columbia College, Chicago, Tufts University, Rutgers University, and Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. Jawole received the Dance Magazine Award (2015), the Dance/USA Honor Award (2016), and the Bessie Lifetime Achievement in Dance Award (2017). In 2020, The Ford Foundation awarded Urban Bush Women as one of America’s Cultural Treasures. In 2021 Jawole received the Dance Teacher Award of Distinction and the 2022 APAP Honors Award of Merit and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize.

Session 6: Dr. Howard C. Stevenson

Wednesday, February 22, 2023, at 10 am EST


Featured speaker:

 

Dr. Howard Stevenson is the Constance Clayton Professor of Urban Education, Professor of Africana Studies, in the Human Development & Quantitative Methods Division of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the Executive Director of the Racial Empowerment Collaborative, designed to promote racial literacy in education, health, and community institutions. He was the former Co-Director of Forward Promise, a national philanthropy that funds community based organizations that help boys and young men of color heal, grow, and thrive above the trauma of historical and present-day dehumanization.
 
He is a nationally recognized clinical psychologist and researcher on negotiating racial conflicts. His book, Promoting Racial Literacy in Schools: Differences that Make a Difference summarizes this work. Two National Institutes of Health funded research projects examine the benefits of racial literacy and culturally responsive interventions. The PLAAY (Preventing Long-term Anger and Aggression in Youth) Project uses basketball and group therapy to help youth and parents cope with stress and trauma from violence and social rejection. Dr. Stevenson also co-led the SHAPE-UP: Barbers Building Better Brothers Project with Drs. Lorretta and John Jemmott, training Black barbers as health educators to teach Black 18-24 year old males to reduce their risk of -- HIV/STDS and retaliation violence -- while they are cutting hair.
 
He received the 2020 Gittler Prize, by Brandeis University, for outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic, and/or religious relations. He was also listed in the 2021 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings of the top university-based scholars in the U.S. who did the most to shape educational practice and policy. In 2021, Dr. Stevenson was elected to membership in the National Academy of Education (NAED). The NAEd advances high quality education research and its use in policy and practice and consists of U.S. and international associates who are elected on the basis of outstanding scholarship related to education.
 
Dr. Stevenson’s research focuses on helping children and adults assert themselves during face-to-face microaggressions. Key to this racial healing work is the use of culture to reduce in-the-moment threat reactions, increase access to memory, physical mobility, and voice, and prevent long-term health detriment.

Session 7: Esie Mensah and Robert Binet

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 at 10 am EST

Featured speakers:

 

Esie Mensah

Esie Mensah is an award winning choreographer, director, dancer, movement director, educator, and TedX speaker. Her mastery of storytelling is as diverse as her experience. From working with megastars like Rihanna, Drake, Janelle Monae, Nelly Furtado and Arcade Fire to historic brands like Holt Renfrew, Coca-Cola, TIFF, Art Gallery of Ontario, Shaw Festival, Toronto Raptors, and more. A member of the Canadian Guild of Stage Directors and Choreographers as well as a two-time Dora nominated artist, Esie’s immense knowledge expands across theatre, dance and film allowing her to transform movement into a physical language that propels her as a storyteller and storykeeper. She recently made her directorial debut with Marcia Johnson’s play Serving Elizabeth at Theatre Aquarius which critics said was a “triumph” and “a wonderfully clear production”.  Her work has been present in Shaw Festival’s 1837: Farmers’ Revolt, Russian Play and Victory, Soulpepper’s MaRainey’s Black Bottom, Musical Stage Company’s production Caroline, or Change and Dixon Road and Canadian Stage/Luminato Festival's film New Monuments. Her own original creations include Akoma, ZAYO, Dora-nominated Shades, and The Journey. Her recent films; A Revolution of Love, is a film inspired by the racial reckoning of 2020 and TESSEL, is a national call of healing supported by 19 dance organizations from across Canada and co-commissioned by Fall For Dance North and Harbourfront Centre.

 

 

 

Robert Binet

Robert Binet is a choreographer and is Choreographic Associate as well as Curator and Producer, CreativAction and Special Initiatives with The National Ballet of Canada. He has created 16 works for the National Ballet including The Dreamers Ever Leave You, an immersive ballet first performed at The Art Gallery of Ontario and later toured within Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, and the original choreography for Karen Kain’s Swan Lake. He has also created works for The Royal Ballet where he was Choreographic Apprentice from 2012-2013, New York City Ballet, Company Wayne McGregor, The Dutch National Ballet (junior company), Ballett am Rhein and more.

 

Robert created the National Ballet’s CreativAction program which offers choreographic development opportunities and shares resources with the local dance community. Commercially, Robert has choreographed for Netflix and music videos for Owen Pallett and Belle & Sebastian.

 

 

 

 

Assemblée Internationale 2023 Leading Supporters

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