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Over splits


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#31 akh

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 03:45 PM

Corrrect placement also seems to go out the window with pupils who are intent on getting their legs as high as possible!
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#32 Anjuli_Bai

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 04:09 PM

Corrrect placement also seems to go out the window with pupils who are intent on getting their legs as high as possible!


Speaking of correct placement:

In Celia Sparger's "Anatomy and Ballet" she discusses, along with pictures of x-rays, the movement of the hip - on pages 24, 25, 26.

She says - in the average person the leg can only attain limited height before the hip has to lift - and thus will be out of alignment:

60% to the front
40% to the side
15% to the back

Any greater height of the leg than that and the hip has to accommodate by tilting.

Now, I'm not suggesting that ballet dancers limit the lift of the leg to those percentages - but there is obviously a limit (even if the ballet dancer is beyond the "average person") to which the leg can be lifted before the body must accommodate.

There are a number of other things which we are taught in ballet class must not happen - but physically have to happen - tour jeté (grand jeté entournant entre lacé) is one of them. But, when exaggerated - the body then has to compensate even more and the "look of balance" - the symmetry - the use of positive and negative space - the shape of line and curve is corrupted.

When that happens the observing eye says - this is not beautiful.

Fokine predicted all this and thus created "Les Sylphides."

Edited by Anjuli_Bai, 23 May 2012 - 04:11 PM.

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#33 Balletmad97

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 05:36 PM

Its probably not for me to say but I want to give another side to this argument. I think oversplits are very gymnastic but they are impressive and when doing a jete it gives a perfect straight line. The idea is to achieve a beautiful line and although it may go against the typical traditions of classical ballet it is a step forward. 100 years ago ballet dancers were nowhere near as flexible as they are today and the developpe was only supposed to go to 90 degrees or hip height (I saw this suggested on a video on youtube called degas dancers by the royal ballet if you wish to look it up). Now the developpe of a proffesional ballet dancer usually goes beyond this and it shows that as time has passed there is a need for something more impressive and the flexibility of dancers has had to increase. At the end of the day ballet is an art based entirely on aesthetics and therefore it must be interesting and impressive. This is where pointe shoes evolved and how ballet technique has moved on. Although achieving an oversplit may not be everyones 'cup of tea' it is visually striking to most people and a new way of grabbing the attention of an audience. An oversplit is extremley hard to accomplish and will make a dancer stand out at an audition if no-one else in the room can do it. It may not follow tradition but ballet is always changing and before long there will be another little trick. It isn't gymnastics and it never will be but it doesn't mean people shouldn't keep changing the art of ballet and making it more awe-inspiring for the audience.
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#34 Ribbons

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 06:09 PM

Balletmad, if you are right, why aren't these attention-grabbing tricks happening in other dance forms?
It is very sad if there is a view that audiences' attention can only be kept by more extremes of flexibility - where will it end?
I think audiences' are enthralled by beauty of movement myself as not everyone can do this at audition either, but accept I may be in a minority :(
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#35 tomuchtallent

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 06:33 PM

Weather we agree or not Balletmad is right that ballet has changed over the years.Ask a dancer in training and im sure they would like higher legs for example.
When i saw the RB live class all the dancers were very flexable.
There is one dancer who i really like and thats Svetlana Zakharova and she is also super flexable.This is the way ballet is now.
To be honest,i dont know what to think,and im only saying this because of what i see with my own eyes,im not saying its right or wrong.
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#36 Anjuli_Bai

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 06:41 PM

Allow me to respond part by part......

Its probably not for me to say

Of course it is for you to say - why not? Your response is as vaid as anyone else's. :)


but I want to give another side to this argument. I think oversplits are very gymnastic but they are impressive and when doing a jete it gives a perfect straight line.

It is going beyond the straight line and the ballon is thus lost.

The idea is to achieve a beautiful line and although it may go against the typical traditions of classical ballet it is a step forward.

Whether it is a step forward is a question each must ask and answer for oneself. Why should it be considered a step forward? Perhaps it is a step too far?


100 years ago ballet dancers were nowhere near as flexible as they are today

I don't think the human body has evolved much in 100 yrs. What dancers have been asked to do has changed and their goals therefore have changed - and thus capabilities. I am sure many of the dancers of 100 yrs ago were capable of high legs and splits. But they had a sense of not only the beauty of line and curve but of propriety. A crotch shot is neither.


and the developpe was only supposed to go to 90 degrees or hip height (I saw this suggested on a video on youtube called degas dancers by the royal ballet if you wish to look it up). Now the developpe of a proffesional ballet dancer usually goes beyond this and it shows that as time has passed there is a need for something more impressive and the flexibility of dancers has had to increase.

Why is a leg coming out of an ear impressive? And after evereyone has done it - then it will no longer be impressive. There are many reasons why the 90 degree developpé was considered ideal - that is because the arms could compliment it - the triangles of negative space gave the picture symmetry. If the leg is too high there is no way the arms can complete the picture. And, to accomplish that extreme height the rest of the body must contort.

Also, if each dancer feels he/she must demonstrate this ability - then we have lost the nuance of all the other degrees of extension. The tenuous low arabesque when Juliet's hand first touches Romeo's in the Ballroom Scene has already faded from the stage. But, when Fonteyn did it - that moment spoke volumes.


At the end of the day ballet is an art based entirely on aesthetics and therefore it must be interesting and impressive.

My sense of aesthetics is not based on "interesing" nor "impressive." It is based on how it moves me emotively. I'd much rather say "ah" than "wow."


This is where pointe shoes evolved and how ballet technique has moved on.

Pointe shoes evolved as part of the Romantic Era - it was a movement in resonse to a movement. Ditto the short tutu. And there are still ballets in which neither is appropriate as part of the choreographer's original intent. However, the oversplit and the height of leg is in many of the classical ballets distorting the original choreographer's intent - in the name of "look what I can do."

Although achieving an oversplit may not be everyones 'cup of tea' it is visually striking to most people and a new way of grabbing the attention of an audience.

I don't think I want the audience to be grabbed at the ballet - I'd much rather they be seduced - involved - fall in love.


An oversplit is extremley hard to accomplish and will make a dancer stand out at an audition if no-one else in the room can do it. It may not follow tradition but ballet is always changing and before long there will be another little trick. It isn't gymnastics and it never will be but it doesn't mean people shouldn't keep changing the art of ballet and making it more awe-inspiring for the audience.

A double flip is extremely hard to accomplish and will make a dancer stand out and is awe-iinspiring - but it is not ballet. Ballet is NOT about tricks. That's the problem - an oversplit is a trick. An art form is not based on a progression of tricks.

In addition.....and if for no other reason - all this emphasis on tricks is tearing apart the bodies of our dancers.

It is shortening careers and we are the losers for it. No longer do we see dancers dancing into their 40's or 50's. We are missing the mature artists who have so much to give us with decades of thought and work behind them.

No mature Plisetskaya, no Ulanova, no Alonso, no Fonteyn, no Pavlova........and many many more who lit up the stage because of the maturity of their art.
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#37 tomuchtallent

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 06:51 PM

Anjul
Are there tricks that dancers use to hide the fact that their hip starts lifting?

#38 primrose

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 07:05 PM

The thing is, there is not many jobs out there for ballet dancers, I certainly do not know one brave enough who would stand up to a company director and say, sorry I am not doing that as it goes against what is good for my body. Generally ballet is not good for the body anyway. Rightly or wrongly company directors appear to be demanding this degree of flexability, its clear that the majority of audiences like it also otherwise it would have been stopped by now. If somebody did a somersault in the middle of a classical ballet performance, what do we think the audience would do. Yep probably there would be an uproar. I am not saying if I agree or not with the oversplits, just that it makes things much harder for my dd when competing against dancers who appear to do this with ease and strenght. As has been mentioned ballet has changed dramatically over the years both in aesthetics and in pushing the body much further than was thought possible. Clearly the companies are still selling tickets to the audiences.
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#39 Flowerdew

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 07:14 PM

I agree with Balletmad & Toomuchtallent. I'm being controversial now but I actually prefer a more flexible dancer! With regard to overspits I don't think any body can be forced into this position. From my experience the dancers who are able to achieve this feel no pain and can achieve this level of flexibility while their classmates are still trying to get into splits !! and when teaching the very flexible dancer you have to be very strict with them about not just throwing their legs up and ensuring correct placement and gaining body strength. My dd has been able to do oversplits since she was around 10 and was never forced into the position one day she could do it! She said recently that when doing splits on the ground she doesn't feel like she is stretching and has to do oversplits to feel a stretch! (she is now 21 and is just about to graduate after 5 years of full time vocational training) so i think I can take her word for it. As for other dance styles a flexible body seems to be more of a requirement for modern dance and technical jazz these days. At the last 2 festivals we have been to the judges have made comments to the older dancers in the modern sections about working on their flexibility and the dancers who have been placed in all age groups have all been very flexible.
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#40 dancerbabe82

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 07:24 PM

there are still professional dancers in this country dancing longer; healthcare is improving but overall training (strength, fitness etc) has not improved because classical class doesn't train the dancers to do what they are now being asked to do which is learn and rehearse 4 different roles all at once, rehearse all day without adequate breaks to eat etc THAT'S what causes injury, and the research supports this.

Aesthetics are so subjective that one persons like is another persons dislike. Dancing is increasingly more competitive and greater flexibility (as well as the strength to use it) as well as the ability to do other 'tricks' such as mulitple turns, leaps etc IS an audience pleaser.

On a slightly different tangent, I love dance for the ability to be expressive and moving but I find it ironic that young dancers in vocational school spend so long perfecting the technical and skill elements - in year 7 every little technical flaw is ironed out, regimented and pupils spend hours in class. Why, if the whole point is expressivity?
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#41 Balletmad97

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 08:01 PM

I'd just like to mention that I was not implying the beauty in ballet should be lost. If anything I was saying the beauty is enhanced because dancers can achieve such beautiful arabesques and elegant jetes. I do however strongly agree with dancerbabe that proffesional dancers if anything seem to dance longer. The only reason they have to leave at 35 now is because they are forced to. Anna Pavlova and Margot Fonteyn danced until they were late into their 50's because they were so amazing they couldn't be forced to. Being flexible is normally a health benefit and dancers shouldn't be encouraged not to be flexible, It makes injury far less likely to occur. I think that the ability to convey emotion through movement will always be at the forefront but the ability to capture an audience through flexibility is not a bad thing. I have to admit though I dislike the crotch shot Anjuli and I agree with you on that. To be honest I think that there is nothing lost in achieving something like oversplit as long as it doesn't affect the true meaning of dance and ballet.
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#42 Anjuli_Bai

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 08:43 PM

The most beautiful arabesque I have ever seen was done by Margot Fonteyn in one of her very last performances when she could otherwise barely dance. It was in the third act pas de deux of Sleeping Beauty.

When she stepped into that unsupported arabesque, on pointe, extended leg at exactly 90 degrees, perfectly balanced, and slowly turned her head to look at the Prince - the audience literally gasped at the beauty of it and then, after a pregnant silence, rose to their feet as one and clapped and cried. A simple arabesque with perfect lines and proportions. No trick, this.. It was the perfection of a life time of work and dedication. When was the last time a dancer brought an audience to its feet with just an arabesque? It takes a mature artist to do this.

It is true that dancers' schedules add to their injury rate but so does the constant wrenching of joints beyond range of motion as well as constant landing from superhigh jumps.

Frankly, I'm not moved by what the schools and companies demand. There was a time (and probably still is) a demand for skeletal dancers. I can't help what the crowd wants.....I speak only for myself.

Well, I guess that's what comes of being old....I remember too well when the Emperor wore clothes and the true beauty of those clothes and I am loth to give that up for the sake of a crotch shot or a swan with a leg protruding from an ear. Perhaps that ear is infected and needs a good scratch - I can't think of any other reason.
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#43 All4dancers

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 08:54 PM

Perhaps that ear is infected and needs a good scratch - I can't think of any other reason.


Anjuli, I laughed so hard at this that the cat fell off the arm of the sofa!
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#44 Anjuli_Bai

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 09:05 PM

Anjuli, I laughed so hard at this that the cat fell off the arm of the sofa!


My apologies to the cat. It would probably fall off the sofa if it saw such a swan, too.
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#45 amber21

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 09:06 PM

Balletmad, if you are right, why aren't these attention-grabbing tricks happening in other dance forms?
It is very sad if there is a view that audiences' attention can only be kept by more extremes of flexibility - where will it end?
I think audiences' are enthralled by beauty of movement myself as not everyone can do this at audition either, but accept I may be in a minority :(

Hi I have also noticed in other dance forms such as disco freestyle and street dance that more tricks have evolved appearing to require more flexibility and strength. Dancers have probably always been capable of such flexibility and strength so whether this is due to the demands of directors, choreographers, dance teachers and general development of dance. There seems to be a real surge in creativity in all dance genres, that appears to have encouraged a massive cross section of people into dance that has been positive in terms of enjoyment, socialising and keeping fit and healthy.
Ax
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#46 Aurora

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 10:36 PM

I am not a fan over over splits but ballet is constantly evolving. Companies struggle to pull their audiences in to the theatre and ballet is often considered boring. If super high leg extensions and over splits get numbers through the door and thus allows companies to survive then so be it. Ballet purists may not like it but then they would go to see more traditional companies, there's no reason both 'styles' can't exist together.

So overall I don't personally like it but im not against it per se and i would still go and see it in a theatre along with more traditional ballet.

#47 KathyG

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 06:49 AM

When you watch programmes like Got to Dance so many of the acts are full of tricks rather than dance moves. A couple of years ago there was a duo who got to the final and they did the most horrendous things with their bodies in my opinion.
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#48 taxi4ballet

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 09:20 AM

Stretching tendons and muscles to the maximum capability of the individual dancer is one thing, Stretching ligaments is quite another. Ligaments don't spring back like elastic - once they have been stretched too far, the integrity of the joint is compromised.

#49 dancerbabe82

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 11:12 AM

Taxi4ballet yes - loose ligaments leave a joint much more prone to damage. My motto is "anything that is stretched must also be strengthened".
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#50 taxi4ballet

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 11:23 AM

dancerbabe82 - couldn't agree more, my dd is hypermobile and she has been advised that she doesn't need to stretch; what she should be working on is strengthening exercises which will help the muscles support the joints.

Funnily enough, the only time she seems to hurt herself by straining something is during school PE lessons. They don't take enough time for warmups, so her muscles don't stretch as far as her joints can, and ouch! she pulls a muscle. Grrr!

#51 spannerandpony

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 11:55 AM

Yep, my dd has been told exactly the same. She has the flexibility to get her leg up to her ear in Grand Battements, but until recently wouldn't have had the strength to maintain a high developpe, for example.

Now the teacher encourages her to keep the leg lower than feels natural, but at the same time she's developping the strength to match the flexibility. It's all very well to be able to get your leg into an unnatural position, but better IMHO to have the strength to protect those hypermobile joints.
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#52 Fonty

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 11:55 AM

The most beautiful arabesque I have ever seen was done by Margot Fonteyn in one of her very last performances when she could otherwise barely dance. It was in the third act pas de deux of Sleeping Beauty.

When she stepped into that unsupported arabesque, on pointe, extended leg at exactly 90 degrees, perfectly balanced, and slowly turned her head to look at the Prince - the audience literally gasped at the beauty of it and then, after a pregnant silence, rose to their feet as one and clapped and cried. A simple arabesque with perfect lines and proportions. No trick, this.. It was the perfection of a life time of work and dedication. When was the last time a dancer brought an audience to its feet with just an arabesque? It takes a mature artist to do this.


Regarding Fonteyn, I seem to remember an article about her, and her view on high extensions. She was quite capable in her prime of lifting her leg far higher than she did, but she considered it ugly.

I don't have a problem with flexible dancers, and I can understand why some of the more modern choreography might demand extremely high extensions, which look good in ballets with leotard type, all-in-one costumes. The problem I have is that now this "modern" style is applied inappropriately to the older, classical ballets e.g. Giselle. I can't remember who I saw at the RB the last time I went, but when she was doing the developpes to the side with the arms in 5th in the second act, she was taking her leg up to nearly 180 degrees, and her foot poked up through the middle of her hands - not an attractive look!

It seems to me that now the legs have become the total focus, and the arms are no longer complementing the positions.

And nothing will persuade me that these oversplits are attractive.
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#53 Gingerbread

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 12:16 PM

dancerbabe82 - couldn't agree more, my dd is hypermobile and she has been advised that she doesn't need to stretch; what she should be working on is strengthening exercises which will help the muscles support the joints.

Funnily enough, the only time she seems to hurt herself by straining something is during school PE lessons. They don't take enough time for warmups, so her muscles don't stretch as far as her joints can, and ouch! she pulls a muscle. Grrr!

We have this problem too - I have mentioned to school so many times, but it's difficult not to sound a bit "precious." Quite frankly I'd rather DD just sat out PE, I don't think there's any benefit to her.

Edited to say:
Sorry, I realise I have gone totally off topic!

Edited by Gingerbread, 24 May 2012 - 12:16 PM.

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#54 taxi4ballet

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 01:15 PM

Gingerbread, re school sports - there is a previous topic about this.

#55 alison

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 02:25 PM

I think oversplits are very gymnastic but they are impressive and when doing a jete it gives a perfect straight line.


But what's the point of having a perfectly straight line in a jete? It's a travelling step, and needs to take off, move through an arc and land, not a question of getting up into the air, whacking your legs into a split and then bringing them back down again.

Getting back to page one of this discussion, can I digress slightly and ask if anyone's seen the new Bloch ballerina they have on their bags? I feel most uncomfortable looking at her, but am not sure why yet.

#56 spannerandpony

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 03:03 PM

No - got a link?
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#57 Jellybeans

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 04:27 PM

If it is so that ballet has evolved, perhaps it has evolved beyond the point of still being ballet, from a purists point of view. Imagine this:

In a game called football, the ball was passed by being kicked from player to player. There came a time when the ball was picked up, as well, and thrown from player to player. Now, this new game may be entertaining and exciting. It might draw the crowds, but is it still football?

I appreciate that some people may favour the extreme positions that we are currently witnessing. I don't, but, either way, we have to ask ourselves if it is still ballet or if it, too, has become something else.
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#58 Ribbons

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 05:38 PM

It seems to me that now the legs have become the total focus, and the arms are no longer complementing the positions.

Yes what about the relationship between the arms and the legs? I thought they were supposed to balance each other out to make beautiful lines?
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#59 tomuchtallent

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 06:13 PM

Jellybeans.
Actually football has developed.My dh was a footballer many years ago and now the skill, technique, bodyshape and atheletic qualities are very noticable if you watch a match from the 50/60s

#60 Jellybeans

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Posted 24 May 2012 - 06:17 PM

Jellybeans.
Actually football has developed.My dh was a footballer many years ago and now the skill, technique, bodyshape and atheletic qualities are very noticable if you watch a match from the 50/60s


But they are still not allowed to throw the ball!! My comment was meant as a simple analogy to explain the development of "ballet". Please lets not get into a discussion about football!!!
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