Flamenco experience

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The dresses used by the bailaoras are possibly the most striking element of all the garments used during a flamenco performance. Its origins date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the saleswomen went to cattle fairs dressed in modest calico gowns adorned with frills.

Since then, the wealthy classes used this humble garment as the reference to create their more sophisticated dressing using rich fabrics.

The design, materials and patterns of the garments have evolved over time. On the one hand, influenced by fashion, such as shortening the lengths of the skirts in the 1970s. But also in favour of the quality and expressiveness of the performances, allowing dancers greater movements without losing its role as accompaniment.

Those long robes were left aside as the standard because, at times, instead of enhancing the performance, they became a burden for the flamenco dancers. Today, closely fitting garments predominate; costumes that make it possible to admire the beauty of the movement of the dancers’ arms; long skirts, that are wide and glossy that the bailaora dominates with grace to accompany the taconeo (heel tapping). Occasionally, they may wear a dress with a train that has been specifically designed for a dancer and performance.

Fabrics and prints

Although the most typical would be polka dots, flowers have always been a favourite element, as well as combinations of colours. Lace is also used as an adornment and accessory or also as the main fabric of the costume.

In addition to the fashions and the personal taste of the artist, the dresses and accessories depend on the style being performed, as this will affect the choice of colours and accessories.

Thus, for an Alegría, the dancer will choose happy colours, extensive frills, and colourful ornaments and accessories. For a Soleá, on the other hand, the clothing will be more sober and dark to adapt to the feeling of the piece.

In the case of men, garments have evolved toward a more neutral colours. Male dancers usually wear two or three-piece suits, that are tight at the waist and short. The three piece suit allows them to vary during the performance, wearing a jacket, a waistcoat, or simply a shirt.

The predominant colours are neutral tones, black and white or dark grey and ochre, although it is also common for men to wear red.

Male dancers often use their garments as accessories during the dance. For example, there are frequent bullfighting movements using the garments by way of cape.

Accessories and adornments

In addition to the garments, accessories and ornaments are very important in the performance, and can even be used as part of the movements.

Accessories are understood to be other elements that complement the clothes and that the artists use as props during certain movements. The mantón (large shawl) or the mantilla or piquillo (small shawl), jackets, waistcoats and even aprons in the case of women, neckerchiefs or scarves, long and short jackets or waistcoats among men.

In the case of women, their appearance is often complemented with ornaments; colourful earrings and richly adorned combs that accompany head movements, flowers in their hair, frills and occasionally fans, as well as other items.

Mantón (large shawl)

The mantón must be large enough to comfortably cover the dancer's outstretched arms. It should not be confused with the small pañoleta (neckerchief) used with “faralaes” dresses. It is also important that does not weigh too much so that it can be easy to handle.

Fan

The type of fan used for dancing is larger than traditional fans, and is known as a “pericón”. They tend to display plain colours, without pictures. They require study and practice in order to use them correctly.

Footwear for dancing

For all dancers, footwear is a crucial item. However, it is even more important in the case of flamenco, because the footwear of the dancers is also an instrument.

Flamenco shoes feature a nails in the toes and heels so that when the come into contact with a wooden floor, they increase the sound and power of the “taconeos” (heel tapping) on the stage.

Both men and women use shoes with a short heel that enhances the power of the footwork, and shoes with laces so that they do not move during the energetic movements of the dance.

In the case of men, the models vary between the shoe with laces and boots. Women use closed shoes, tied with shoelaces or a clasp to ensure they do not move during the dance.

Both men and women often use coloured shoes, a particularly striking detail when the rest of the costume is very sober.

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    Lady’s costume

    The clothing goes around the body against the air


    |Beyond the typical red costume, the authentic flamenco features a creative explosion of fabrics, cuts, frills, and prints. Each one is linked not only to the personality of the dancer, but also to the style being performed.
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    Accessories

    The richness of details arises from the stage


    There are many accessories and ornaments that can be identified in a flamencerformance. Ornate earrings, combs, flowers, shawls, mantillas (small shawls), toquillas (headdress), waistcoats, scarves, neckerchiefs or short jackets are some of them.
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    Gentleman's costume

    The stance that suits a "bailaor"


    Unlike the costumes worn by women, and that feature fabrics that can float in the air, the men dress tighter-fitting clothes of a more sober style to enhance their movements. Al their garments do not include frills, male dancers sometimes unfasten their jackets or shirts and use them as part of the dance.
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    Footwear

    The dance hits the floor to create rhythm


    The boots used by the bailaor and the shoes used by the bailaora are not simply another item of their clothing. The toe and heels feature nail heads so that the footwear becomes a percussion element within the dance.

“We designed this experience to bring together some children who have been working since they were young on expressing themselves with flamenco art, to provide them with the experience required to be on stage. We found that the children who came to see them perform, were hypnotized by the art these other children displayed.”

Ivana Portolés (Director of Cardamomo and the person behind the idea of “Flamenco is also for children”).

Flamenco is more than a musical genre, it is a way of life. Flamenco artists keep this in mind in all aspects of their lives. They use it at meetings, celebrations, when cooking and even to put babies to sleep. Consequently, it is a way of life from early childhood.

Therefore, flamenco has an impact that is especially visible in children, these small people who on so many occasions dance or play an instrument, even before knowing how to speak or read or do math. Aware of this, Cardamomo attested to this in a documentary, "Cardamomo in the family", which included unusual performances by children for children, accompanied by famous artists. The recording reflected the true nature of a way of life, which is transmitted from generation to generation from the cradle.
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    Trailer "Flamenco is also for children"

    An experience made by "Cardamomo Foundation"


    Uma experiência da Fundação CardamomoUne expérience de la Fondation CardamomoEine Hommage der Stiftung Fundación CardamomoAn experience made by "Cardamomo Foundation"Una experiencia de la Fundación Cardamomo' data-poster="https://cardamomo.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/cardamomo-flamenco-en-familia.jpg" data-type="video" >
    This video is part of a Flamenco training programme, launched in 2013 by the director, Ivana Portolés, the main goal of which was for this Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity to be taught in schools.

 

“Flamenco shouts to the world what my soul keeps to itself.”
Claudia Casares

LAS PALMAS (CLAPPING)

Clapping, “the most accurate, ancient and essential method of flamenco percussion”, is the measured accompaniment to flamenco singing and dancing. This representative aspect of flamenco is a rhythmic accompaniment which, together with the rhythmic beat of knuckles on wooden tables, appeared in the origins of this art, long before the use of the box and other percussion instruments.

 

During the performance, they are simply another instrument. They are based, above all, on rhythmic parameters, which is developed within the concept of "measure", i.e. the rhythmic cycles characteristic of flamenco music.

The basic grasp of this form of accompaniment and the knowledge of the different rhythms are the fundamental aspects for dancers, singers, guitarists and percussionists, making it an ideal and essential part of their training.

The “palmeros” (clappers) who accompany the singing, dancing or guitar have to monitor the following aspects constantly: keep the beat, accompany the verses with their quiet or loud clapping as required, respond to the singing or dancing, respond to the verses, accompany the “escobillas” (extended footwork section) and accelerate (the tempo) of the dance, accompany the various guitar “falsetas”, and also highlight the end or closures of a song or dance.

Thus, learning how to hand clap requires a lot of practice and time, not only to acquire the reflexes to change and adapt to the beat, but to learn to combine all these functions that take place during the singing, the dancing and the guitar playing, assisting the overall performance.

Types of “Palmas” (hand clapping)

  • Muted: Muted hand clapping is often used to accompany basic types of songs, such as the Soleá and Tientos. These are Palmas with a moderate volume that serve to mark the beat at times when you want to give prominence to the “cante” (singing).

  • Loud: This type of “Palmas” known as “sonoras” or “abiertas” are used in festive songs, such as Bulerías, Alegrías...

Other rhythmic Palmas accompaniments

The “Golpe” (Tap)

This is used to accompany or set the beat by tapping your knuckles on a table or tapping a cane on the floor. It is a way of marking the beat, while the teacher gives directions to the students.

Pitos (finger snapping)

This is a sound made by snapping one’s fingers. It is used by the teacher to mark the rhythm, and by dancers to beautify their dance.

Palillos - Castañuelas (castanets)

These are percussion instruments made of wood, and known by the Phoenicians three thousand years ago. The rhythm must be initiated with the right hand, cutting off the last note with the sound of the left-hand castanets.

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THE JALEO

One of the most striking aspects on a flamenco stage are those typical gestures and shouts that accompany the singing, or dancing. During a performance, it is common to hear the hand clappers, cantaores (singers) or people in the audience shout the classic “OLÉ!” as well as compliments, encouragement, or the name of the artist.

Flamenco is a performance in which various artists participate and the compenetration between them and their ability to communicate with each other is essential if they want to convey the strength, passion and emotion that define this art form.

The “Jaleo” is, therefore, the screams, congratulations, and expressions of encouragement that artists or the audience contribute almost spontaneously and emotionally to drive the artists to greater levels of inspiration or expression. It is a natural reaction to the most intense feelings or moments of a performance, executed at a suitable rhythm and at the correct moment so as not to kill the magic that should emerge from any flamenco performance.

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    Clapping, finger snapping and Jaleos

    A feeling that envelops the tablao


    The muted clapping is often used to accompany basic types of songs, such as the Soleá or Tientos. These are Palmas with a moderate volume that serve to mark the beat at times when you want to give prominence to the “cante” (singing). On the other hand, the so-called loud or open clapping (palmas sonoras) is used in festive songs, such as Bulerías, Alegría... The jaleo is a type of harangue, synonym of noise, and refers to an enthusiastic and noisy environment that seeks to uplift the mood. When we speak of pitos (finger snapping) we refer to the sound that is made by snapping the tips of your fingers. This element is used by the bailaor (flamenco dancer) to beautify the dance and set the pace.
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    Tapping

    Marking the beat from the beginning


    Formerly, there was no percussion instruments in flamenco. They then used various elements to mark the beat, such as wooden tables or canes. The idea was to accompany or set the rhythm by tapping your knuckles on a table or a cane on the floor.

Listen to this piece and try to identify some of the elements you have read in this section

  • 1

    Pitos

  • 2

    Jaleo

  • 3

    Palmas sordas

  • 4

    Golpe (antigua percusión)

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“One of the wonders of the cante jondo, apart from its essential melodic nature, consists in the poetry. The most infinite gradations of pain and grief, placed at the service of the purest and most precise mode of expression, beat in the trios and quartets of the siguiriya and its derivatives.”

Federico García Lorca – Poet (1898-1936)

The voice is a soloist and instrument in itself. Until the appearance of the guitar, the voice alone was used, perhaps accompanied by the rhythm of knuckles beating on a table or the clapping of hands. That is why it must be able to produce feelings, melodies and harmonies to communicate with the audience: flamenco is an art that expresses deep feelings.

Pain, loneliness, love, and even death. Some flamenco styles are even called after the names of feelings, such as the alegría (joy). Feelings that the singing tries to transmit in an authentic way, in a unique and unrepeatable instant, regardless of the size of the audience. The best conditions for the emergence of these feeling tend to occur in meetings or small rooms and in areas of proximity, as in the tablaos.

 

Frequently, poems by authors such as Miguel Hernández, Calderón de la Barca, Miguel de Cervantes, Jorge Manrique, Lope de Vega, Antonio and Manuel Machado, Rafael Alberti or Federico García Lorca, among others, are played.

The “cante” has always been quite rigid, respecting the structure, but today, a bit of leeway is allowed for improvisation or the interpretation of the artist.

In addition, many evolutions and even the fusion of flamenco singing coexist with the most traditional type of flamenco. We can listen to it intermingling with African or eastern rhythms; or with Afro-American music such as blues and salsa, among others.

THE STRUCTURE OF A PIECE.

With respect to the role of the cantaor (singer), a piece consists of 2 parts: the Temple (or tuning) and the verses.

Temple (or tuning): The cantaor tempers his voice to ensure it is in the tone of the guitar, adorning it with melismas -a technique used to change the musical height of a syllable in the lyrics of a song while singing-.

Verses (Letras): Verses are each one of the lyrical parts of some songs. On the Tablao, it is customary to sing the starting verse, plus 2 more verses per cantaor (singer). However, if the cantaor (singer) feels that the dance or “toque” (music), or both, convey some emotion, improvisation ("El Duende" (The Spirit) as Camarón called it) begins and could continue. The bailaor (flamenco dancer) may also claim the occasion to improvise if he or she is inspired.

The structure of the verses of a song, in order of appearance, are: the Starting Verse (Salida), the First Verse (Primera), the Second Verse (Segunda) or Strong Verse (Valiente), and the Final Verse (Remate or Salida).

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    Temple

    or tuning


    |The cantaor tempers his voice to ensure it is in the tone of the guitar, adorning it with melismas -a technique used to change the musical height of a syllable in the lyrics of a song while singing-.
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    First Verse

    In "Alegría" (joy)


    It is a peaceful type of verse that consists in gradually achieving the serenity of the dance.
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    Closing verse

    The alegrías close with a “bulería”


    The last verse serves to end the dance and conclude the performance. He speeds up and almost always changes style.
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    Initial Verse

    In "alegría" (joy)


    Almost all the songs have a typical start that corresponds with the style being performed; ayes, lereles, tiritiais and other tarabillas.
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    Second Verse

    Also known as “Valiente”


    In this part, the cantaor takes on more elaborate “cantes”, although, in general, with a similar feeling to the first “cante” (song). This is the part in which a good cantaor demonstrates his power and tries to transmit it to show what he is capable of achieving.

Listen to this piece and try to identify some of the elements you have read in this section

  • 1

    Tuning

  • 2

    Segunda letra

  • 3

    Valiente

  • 4

    De cierre

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“The mind must be set aside for dancing, it is the soul that has to express itself.”

María Juncal (flamenco dancer)

The dancing is the most visual element of a flamenco performance. It emerged in marginal communities of Andalusia and Extremadura; however, it takes elements from various sources, especially Gypsy, African, Castilian, and Andalusian influences. Therefore, it is a popular dance with a racial origin that expresses the lyrics of the songs through movement. Flamenco dancers are called “bailaores” (male dancers) and “bailaoras” (female dancers).

Formally, flamenco dancing is very complex, with multiple variations, steps, and rhythms, the fruit of the many existing styles. It is characterized by the transmission of feelings through smooth and elegant movements of arms and hands which contrast with vibrant and passionate foot movements.

The choreographies are a combination of a deep knowledge of flamenco art and the free expression of the artist who literally interprets the piece, also leaving room for improvisation.

Dancing on the tablao

The tablao is the small stage where a flamenco performance takes place. The limited size of this space gives rise to a unique connection between artists and the audience; they are so close to the stage they can even hear the artist breath or watch as beads of sweat fall to the floor.

In a tablao, all the choreography of the show includes improvisation, although based on the characteristic structure of each style. This is the greatest spell of the Tablao. Flamenco on a tablao usually features a minimalist stage setting; it is mainly based on expressing feelings.

On a tablao, the dancers usually perform individually and their dancing consists of their dancing steps and how they use the space, the sound of the floor as a percussion instrument, and the movement and handling of their costumes.

In addition to individual performances, duos are also frequent. In this case, the dancers stage a duel while looking at each other constantly. When two dancers perform, the main aspects are their understanding, connection and communication.

Basic structure of a dance

A dance is usually based on a structure. In most flamenco styles, there are two distinct parts based on a different rhythm, style and accompaniment, which are also danced differently; the second being faster and more energetic than the first.

First part

  1. Arrival: this is the moment when the dancer comes out on to the stage and starts dancing.
  2. Call: The dancer performs a short “taconeo” (heel tapping) to introduce the singing.
  3. Verse or verses: During the part that focuses on the singing, the dancer marks time and walks, dances and expresses feeling using his/her body but does not interfere with the cantaor's voice. You can hear the singing.
  4. Conclusion of the verse: The dancer executes a short “taconeo” (heel tapping) to introduce the guitar.
  5. Escobilla: part dedicated to the “zapateado” (tap dance) which the dancer usually improvises.

Second part

  1. Finale (Macho, Estribillo, Ida). The dance is at its peak. This last verse is played in the flamenco style; this is usually vibrant, fast and energetic. The name will depend on each style.
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    "Marcaje"

    With or against the rhythm


    A dance step with which the dancer simply marks time with his or her body and several heel-tapping movements but without actually dancing so as to allow the singer to express himself.
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    "Llamada"

    Por "Alegrías"


    A section of dances that serve to attract attention to the guitar or the singer in order to change the moment, or to conclude or start part of the choreography.
  • 5

    Tap dancing

    And tap dancing with raised feet


    In order to distinguish this dancing style known as zapateado, zapateo is the action of tap dancing. There are several types of zapateado: golpes buleaeros, punteados, martilleo de puntera, cruzado en línea, movements with zapateo, escobillas alegrías and soleá, tanguillos, fandangos. The subida is a type of zapateado that increases in speed.
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    Arms conclusion

    More elegant


    There are various types of remate. For example, the arm remate that ends a series with a more subtle and artistic movement.
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    "Desplante"

    Used to close up specific moments in the performance


    The desplante, as a type of marking technique, is one of many terms shared with bull-fighting. In a bull-fight, the desplante is when the bull-fighter takes an arrogant stance and faces off the bull; in flamenco, it is the stance taken by the dancer when he or she finishes a part of the performance and faces the audience.
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    "Escobilla"

    Por "alegría"


    Section of a flamenco dance when the tap dancing dominates. In alegrías it is performed after the silence and is one of the most lively and energetic moments of the dance.
  • 6

    Conclusion

    To end a serie


    A dance step used to end a series, usually 1 or 2 beats.

Listen to this piece and try to identify some of the elements you have read in this section

  • 1

    Escobilla

  • 2

    Zapateado

  • 3

    Desplante

  • 4

    Remate

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“The flamenco copla displays, in all their purity, the most intimate feelings of the heart and the clearest and most tenacious understanding”
Antonio Machado – Poet (1875-1939)

The “toque” refers to the musical accompaniment of the guitars. A flamenco guitarist is called a “tocaor”. Depending on the rhythm of the “toque”, we can define the various “palos” or styles.

The guitar is the element that has evolved most throughout the history of flamenco, to the point of taking a leading role for itself. However, the “tocaor” (guitarist) is also linked to a flamenco technique and posture.

 

For example, the use of the thumb is characteristic of flamenco playing. The guitarists place it on the guitar's soundboard, and the index and the middle fingers on the string above the one they are playing. This produces a louder and more powerful sound. The pickguard used as a percussion element provides great forcefulness to flamenco music.

The structure of guitar playing

A song is divided into several parts or variations, which are the interludes of the flamenco guitar between the verses (letras) of a song.

  1. Introduction: After tuning, the guitar starts the piece to be played in the corresponding tone and style. The guitarist chooses the introduction freely in a personal manner or goes directly to the beat, at his discretion.

  2. Guitar variations and starting verse: the first verse chosen is usually the one whose melody falls within the singer’s register.

  3. Falsetto: before the strong verse the guitar plays a main section of music that creates or recreates a composition with an independent musical sense of composition or recreating one from a repertoire.

  4. Guitar variations and strong verse: the second part of the song can be in a higher register.

  5. Guitar finish: this can be a small variation of finishing touches that increase in speed and intensity.

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    Tuning

    For the temple (tuning)


    This is where all the song forms begin. Each song form requires a tone and the song forms are not repeated, which requires a pause before beginning to play a piece in order to change the tone. This is a standard moment in all flamenco performances. The guitarist seeks the tone for each song form in the darkness and while tuning for the temperament (tuning to find the tone), the singer anticipates the song form in most cases before the guitarist plays.
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    Thumb and "alzapúa" technique

    Depending on whether one or several notes are played


    The thumb is used to play the guitar. We call it “pulgar” when only one note is played. The Alzapúa is a technique that involves the thumb on the right hand when it is used as a pick, playing on one, two or more strings to achieve a fast rhythm, playing downwards and upwards, especially on the low notes. In addition to the alzapúa, the thumb is frequently used to make very interesting movements; for example, alternating its use with the index finger. This is done by twisting the wrist to achieve great speed in playing the note.
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    Golpe (hit)

    Percussion using the right hand while playing


    This consists in the action and effect of tapping the sound box of the guitar with a finger nail or the tips of your fingers. In flamenco, this type of percussion takes place at the same time and after certain chords, notes, rhythms, strumming, alzapúas, etc. This effect is usually used to support certain styles of playing.

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    Escobilla

    The bailaor (male dancer)


    It is typical to use slow and precise arpeggios at the beginning and then to make them more complicated gradually. Care must be taken not to increase the speed of the rhythm so as not to force the dancer in his or her dance tapping technique, which will become increasingly complicated and will contain more taps – although this does not necessarily imply any increase in speed.
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    The silence

    Alegría


    Silence during an alegría is a section of this form that takes place before the escobilla, consisting of dance and guitar parts. The beat of the alegría is twelve tempos in major mode, except in this part when it is played in minor mode.
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    Strum

    To achieve a continuous sound


    This is one of the most important and varied technical elements. It consists in strumming the strings quickly using your fingers on your right hand (with fan type movements on occasions) producing a continuous sound from the strings, going from the high to the low notes or vice versa.
  • 4

    Tremolo

    Using three fingers


    There are some widely-used chords in flamenco that are based on the use of the left hand on classic guitars that lead to great skill in the use of the instrument.

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    Introduction to alegría (joy)

    With guitar techniques


    This starting melody or first verse is used to determine, together with the guitar, the singer’s register. This video also presents various guitar techniques, such as the arpeggio, the picado – or punteado -, the ligado, the falseta, or the horquilla.
  • 8

    Buleria closure

    Cadiz


    The alegría ends with a Cadiz bulería.

Listen to this piece and try to identify some of the elements you have read in this section

  • 1

    Rasgueo

  • 2

    Trémolo

  • 3

    Golpe

  • 4

    Afinación

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Now, during the Show, we invite you to pay attention and identify this Flamenco elements so that you understand it better.
¡Enjoy the experience!

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