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Content of this page:
    Introduction to Hungarian Dances
    HUNGARIAN FOLKDANCE TYPES
    Folk Dance - Népi Tánc

Introduction to Hungarian Dances

by Andor Czompo
Dr. George Martin, one of the most prominent folklore scientists, has divided the Hungarian folk dances into two major categories: the old layer of dances
dating back to the Middle Ages, and the relatively new layer, which developed in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the old layer the weapon dances and dances closely related to them, the ax and stick dances, are still danced today by shepherds and gypsies. Kanasz Tánc is an example of this old type of dance. Another dance type which belongs to the old layer includes the "jumping" dances. The term "jumping" here names a dance family, and does not necessarily indicate the characteristic movement in the dances. Dr. Martin believes the "jumping" dances originate from the same source as the weapon dances, but in this dance family no implement was used, and because of this, more dance-like footwork developed. Ciganytánc and the first half of Szenyeri Paros belong to this dance family.

Between the old and new layers there is a dance type which preserves a very old dance form, namely, the chain and circle forms which were popular all
over Europe during the Middle Ages. The Hungarians call them karikazo (karika = ring). The dances in this category are mainly girls' dances. The csárdás which developed in the 19th century strongly influenced this dance form, especially with the new-style csárdás music. With this music several steps and step patterns slowly carried over from the csárdás into the circle dances.
Dunafalvi Leanytánc and Bagi Karikazo illustrate this dance type; also Lakodalmi Tánc, which has some ritualistic significance.

Among the new dance types is the verbunk. These dances developed in the military recruiting system of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in the 18th and 19th centuries. The early verbunki dances still retained many characteristics of the "ugros" dance type. A later development in the 19th century resulted in the present form of these dances. In this development the new type of verbunk music played an important role. Nagykonyi Verbunk and Gencsi Verbunk represent this military-style dance. The csárdás, born as ballroom dance in the first half of the 19th century, was based on the couple dances of the peasant. This ballroom csárdás served to satisfy the need for a truly national dance among the aristocracy, and later for the middle class. In the 20th century the ballroom csárdás lost its popularity considerably. However, among the peasants, the couple dance form remained quite popular. Until the Second World War the peasants continued to use the name "csárdás" as a general term for the couple dances. Due to circumstances which are still under investigation, the peasant csárdás reflects a great variety of different styles. As a very broad generalization, in Western Hungary, the dancers emphasize vertical movements, in eastern Hungary, including Transylvania, horizontal movements are characteristics. In the middle area of Hungary on the Great Hungarian Plain and in northern Hungary (Paloc Land), these two styles overlap, giving a broadness in variety to the csárdás. The traditional csárdás has two parts: a long slow part and short fast part. The above-mentioned differences, by geographical area, stand out particularly in the fast part of the csárdás.

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HUNGARIAN FOLKDANCE TYPES

A brief categorization of Hungarian folkdances may be presented as follows:
OLD STYLE DANCES:
Dating back to the Middle Ages or earlier.
1. KARIKÁZÓ: Karikázó means circle dance, which are women’s dances mostly without music, accompanied by the singing of folksongs. These are the most archaic forms of folkdances found in Hungary.
2. UGRÓS or JUMPING DANCES:
Solo or couple dances which are accompanied by old style music with an “um-pah” rhythm [accent on the second measure]. Shepherd, solo man’s dances from Transylvania and marching dances are examples of these forms. Remnants of medieval weapon dances may also be part of this group.
3. OLD STYLE COUPLE SANCES:
Found in remote villages of Transylvania, which were away from western musical influences, usually accompanied by uneven musical tempos.
NEW STYLE DANCES:
These dances developed during the later part of the 18th Century, they also paralleled the development of a new style musical form in Hungarian culture, mostly due to fashions and influences arriving from Western Europe.
1. VERBUNK:
Solo men’s dances which evolved from the “recruiting” dances of Austro-Hungary, when recruiting into the army was conducted by professional party makers, staging big festivities to attract young lads by presenting army life as “fun”. The VERBUNK dances of today remind us of this tradition to maintain a paid army for the Empire.
2. CSÁRDÁS:
The National couple dance of the Hungarians, which in its simple form is two steps to the right and two steps to the left, followed by turning the woman around. However, its regional variations and intricate additional figures are innumerable.
MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTERISTICS OF HUNGARIAN DANCE:
1. They are almost always improvised.
2. There are specific regional variations, which are due to uneven development.
3. Most of the time the dances are closely associated with specific music, and they are important elements of community life. [They have a purpose.]
REGIONAL DIALECTS OF HUNGARIAN DANCE:
In a very broad generalization we can divide Hungarian folkdances into three geographic areas. Of course variations within these large regions are numerous.
WESTERN REGION:
From the Austrian border to the Danube River, which is essentially all of Western Hungary. Mostly new style dances are found here, generally with a “down-accented” style. Obviously this was the area that was most influenced by Western musical and dance fashions.HUNGARIAN FOLKDANCE TYPES
Submitted by Magyar Kalman
A brief categorization of Hungarian folkdances may be presented as follows:
OLD STYLE DANCES:
Dating back to the Middle Ages or earlier.
1. KARIKÁZÓ: Karikázó means circle dance, which are women’s dances mostly without music, accompanied by the singing of folksongs. These are the most archaic forms of folkdances found in Hungary.
2. UGRÓS or JUMPING DANCES:
Solo or couple dances which are accompanied by old style music with an “um-pah” rhythm [accent on the second measure]. Shepherd, solo man’s dances from Transylvania and marching dances are examples of these forms. Remnants of medieval weapon dances may also be part of this group.
3. OLD STYLE COUPLE SANCES:
Found in remote villages of Transylvania, which were away from western musical influences, usually accompanied by uneven musical tempos.
NEW STYLE DANCES:
These dances developed during the later part of the 18th Century, they also paralleled the development of a new style musical form in Hungarian culture, mostly due to fashions and influences arriving from Western Europe.
1. VERBUNK:
Solo men’s dances which evolved from the “recruiting” dances of Austro-Hungary, when recruiting into the army was conducted by professional party makers, staging big festivities to attract young lads by presenting army life as “fun”. The VERBUNK dances of today remind us of this tradition to maintain a paid army for the Empire.
2. CSÁRDÁS:
The National couple dance of the Hungarians, which in its simple form is two steps to the right and two steps to the left, followed by turning the woman around. However, its regional variations and intricate additional figures are innumerable.
MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTERISTICS OF HUNGARIAN DANCE:
1. They are almost always improvised.
2. There are specific regional variations, which are due to uneven development.
3. Most of the time the dances are closely associated with specific music, and they are important elements of community life. [They have a purpose.]
REGIONAL DIALECTS OF HUNGARIAN DANCE:
In a very broad generalization we can divide Hungarian folkdances into three geographic areas. Of course variations within these large regions are numerous.
WESTERN REGION:
From the Austrian border to the Danube River, which is essentially all of Western Hungary. Mostly new style dances are found here, generally with a “down-accented” style. Obviously this was the area that was most influenced by Western musical and dance fashions.
TISZA REGION:
From the Danube River traveling East to the Romanian boarder, both sides of the Tisza River. This area preserved many old style dances, but new style forms are also abundant. The Szatmár [North Eastern] Region may exhibit the “most characteristic” form of Csárdás. The dances are usually “up-accented” style, meaning that the first movement is in an upward direction to the first measure of music.
TRANSYLVANIAN REGION:
Politically this area constitutes the Western part of Romania at this time, but we can find the most versatile and beautiful, often archaic folkdances which were preserved here due to the political and geographical isolation from western influences. All forms of dances may be found here, but they are specific to small geographic areas or even specific villages. The uneven development of music and folkdance is most interesting and exciting in this region, research is still uncovering new findings.
TISZA REGION:
From the Danube River traveling East to the Romanian boarder, both sides of the Tisza River. This area preserved many old style dances, but new style forms are also abundant. The Szatmár [North Eastern] Region may exhibit the “most characteristic” form of Csárdás. The dances are usually “up-accented” style, meaning that the first movement is in an upward direction to the first measure of music.
TRANSYLVANIAN REGION:
Politically this area constitutes the Western part of Romania at this time, but we can find the most versatile and beautiful, often archaic folkdances which were preserved here due to the political and geographical isolation from western influences. All forms of dances may be found here, but they are specific to small geographic areas or even specific villages. The uneven development of music and folkdance is most interesting and exciting in this region, research is still uncovering new findings.

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Folk Dance - Népi Tánc

From "Hungarian Civilization: A Short History with Bibliography" by Michael J Horvath, LL.D., M.S.L.S., University of Maryland, College Park Foreign travelers in Hungary at the time of the Turkish wars wrote about the famous, impassioned battle dance of the HAIDUK performed with swords and axes, as a unique, fiery dance unknown to other nations. In the past century Hungarian folk dance (népi tánc) was still a traditional part of the folklore, chiefly in the life of the peasantry. The recruiting dances, the "Verbunk (Verbungos)", the dance of the Hungarian Hussars, the peasant couple dance, and the "Csárdás", which became a ballroom dance in the middle of the 19th century, are well known in European literature of dance. In the middle of the 1920s this was noticed chiefly by Hungarian ethnographers who, animated by the movement collecting folk dance music initiated and performed by Béla Bartok and Zoltán Kodály, decided to rescue what was still alive of the folk dance material. The ethnographer Sándor Gyönyey recorded folk dance on silent film as early as 1925. Later a large amount of material has been collected: 60,000 meters of dance films and many musical recordings. By now the number of amateur folk dance groups in Hungary has risen to above two thousand. Under the regular guidance of outstanding teacher-choreographers, the most talented members of these groups develop into artists capable of not only rendering folklore material convincingly but also undertaking the creation and new works rooted in folk art on yet a higher technical level, and conceived in a modern spirit. Original folk dances and games still survive in the villages and are recorded by amateur and professional researchers. Children's dances and songs are widely popular in various regions. Ancient songs can often be heard in the schoolyards, in the fields, and even in the parks of major towns where children dance in rounds, in semicircles, in star-shaped formations, sometimes with raised arms threadneedle-like. The patterns of these children's games are quite simple. In some regions where traditions are observed, the "couple dance" in the matchmaking games is performed in the style and with the steps of the Csardas of the grown-ups. The female dances are similar in pattern to the children's games; the girls sing and dance in rounds, first slowly and then swiftly. The traditional costumes have had a strong influence on the various female dances; with the Matyós around Mezokovesd, jumps on both feet are regular features along the hem of the skirt. IN the Sarkoz region where the skirts are ample and short, the swing of the hips is a frequent movement which is meant to enhance the swinging of the skirt. The footwear is another factor influencing the dancing; in South Transdanubia (Dunántul) the girls wearing cloth-soled flat slippers dance differently from those wearing heeled slippers, who live a distance of only ten miles away from those dancing in boots, in the northern regions. While women lived a rather secluded life and only within their family, the men had more opportunity for entertainment. In certain occupations it was also the custom to display strength and skill by dancing, and therefore the movements and expressions of the male dances are extremely rich. Three main types of male dance ca be distinguished:
soldiers' dances, pastoral dances, and dances performed with various instruments. In the group of soldiers' dances is the Haiduk (Hajdutánc) dance, performed with swords in the 16th century. It is known nowadays from historical documents. The still surviving Verbunk (Verbungos) has, however, preserved in memory the recruitments of bygone times. In the western part of the country the circular pattern still shows the circles which used to be joined by the
youngsters to be recruited, with the corporal in the middle. Although the central figure is sometimes omitted, both the music and the dance still show traces of the two original parts: the solo and the group dance. Some of the structurally well-defined Verbunk follow the traditional musical form, that is, by ever-changing variations. The joint clapping of hands, the slapping of boots
in intricated rhythms, and the simple movements performed by the larger number of dancers impart a certain monumentality to the dance. Verbunk has often been an inspiration to Hungarian composers. A classical example is Zoltán Kodaly's well known "recruiting dance" in his opera "Háry János." Several thousand
Roman Catholic Csángós of Gyimes live beyond the Carpathians, on the Moldavian slope, in the Gyimes Pass and in the mountains rising above it. They are a late offshoot of the Székely drive eastward (after Mádéfalvi veszedelem). Gyimesfelsolok, Gyimeskozeplok, and Gyimesbukk are their most important settlements. Their idiom of music and dance and the Hungarian part of their customs link them to the Székelys of Csik. Their traditional dances are the Recruiting dance, the Csardas, and the walk and turn of the Kettos (double). Another group of male dances comprises the pastoral (Herdsmen) dances. Nomadic stock raising was significant in Hungary up to the mid-19th century. Living outdoors winter and summer alike. Magyar pásztorok (herdsmen) had to rely on their own sill and strength to defend their herds against wolves and thieves. They acquired amazing skill in handling various tools, such as sticks, axes, and ropes. This skill was also demonstrated in their dances. The swift twirling of sticks or axes, the swishing and slashing movements with long whips, quick jumps, turns, and attacking and defending steps, as well as humorous playful elements, are characteristics of these dances. The dance style is adapted to the use of the tool, especially the stick held on the shoulders or crosswise on the back, or twirled around the fingers of one hand while slapping the boots with the other, or else used as a weapon for playful battle. Herdsmen's' dances are also performed without tools, as a sort of pantomime. In Northern Hungary (Felvidék) the swineherds have a popular dance: one of them throws his hat to the ground and dances around it as if defending his little pig from the thieves. Another dancer tries to snatch it but must be very careful not to be hit by the "owner," while both perform the typical "swineherd step" and the "public" provides the singing accompaniment. These dances used to be performed to the accompaniment of instruments made by the dancers themselves, such as bagpipes or citer. According to historical sources, the shepherds' dance has the longest history as a stage production. The great Hungarian poet Bálint Balassi is said to have danced it at the Pozsony Diet (Nemzetgyülés) of 1572 in front of the king. In the early 19th century, the peasant students of the first Agricultural Academy in Hungary, the Georgicon at Keszthely, demonstrated the swineherds' dances of the region to visitors from other parts of Hungary. The liveliest, most animated of Hungarian dances are the "couple dances." Newer variations are being added on to this day. In most villages the local dance in couples is nowadays called the Csárdás, a term coined in the 1840s by a journalist, but the origins of the Hungarian couple dances go back much further into history. Written documents testify to the popularity of the dance in all social layers from the kings to the peasants. Dancing entertainments were prohibited by the Church on many occasions in the Middle Ages.
In the early 19th century, the first enthusiastic ethnographers described
certain outstanding features of some dances and recorded a few dance names like Kopogós (reaping), Dobogós (stamping), and Tányéronforgó (twirling on the plate). In the 1830s and 1840s, when the national self-esteem grew higher, one of the expressions of this was the demand of the progressive people that along with Hungarian language and costume, Hungarian dances should also be introduced into the ballrooms. As a reaction to the Hapsburg oppression, not even the fashionable society dance the waltz met with enthusiastic reception, because it had reached Hungary via Vienna. It provoked an attempt to create a characteristically national society dance. We know of provincial balls where during the Carnival in 1843 nothing else was performed except the Csárdás. Its name was coined in 1842 when a correspondent of the Diet, writing about the ball of the nobility organized after the session, said that the dance performed there "was the same as the dance performed on Sundays by the peasant lads and girls in the Csárda (a village inn or pub)."
This name soon came to be applied to all couple dances, with additional distinctive attributes like "kemény csárdás" (tough), Kopogós csárdás (reaping), "félfordulós csárdás" (half-turn), etc. The Csárdás is characterized by the constant and free variation of steps and movements. It usually consists of a slow and a fast part. Folk dances are customary at family gatherings, weddings, and name days when the elder generation also joins in. Dances are also performed, however, on the occasions of entertainments such as harvest, vintage, etc. The original folk dance still exists in villages and towns all over the country. The Csárdás is danced throughout the country in the following succession of patterns: the boy and the girl dance in front of each other with his hand on her waist and hers on his shoulders. After various motifs (starting with two steps to the right and two steps the left), the couple whirls around or the girl pivots around the raised hand of the boy. In more archaic forms, the couples separate and the boy performs a spectacular solo while the girl turns about her own axis or imitates the steps of the boy with reduced dynamism. The dance usually ends in a twirling of the coFolk Dance - Népi Tánc
Submited by: webmester on 6th March, 2003 - 20:17 - #218

From "Hungarian Civilization: A Short History with Bibliography" by Michael J Horvath, LL.D., M.S.L.S., University of Maryland, College Park Foreign travelers in Hungary at the time of the Turkish wars wrote about the famous, impassioned battle dance of the HAIDUK performed with swords and axes, as a unique, fiery dance unknown to other nations. In the past century Hungarian folk dance (népi tánc) was still a traditional part of the folklore, chiefly in the life of the peasantry. The recruiting dances, the "Verbunk (Verbungos)", the dance of the Hungarian Hussars, the peasant couple dance, and the "Csárdás", which became a ballroom dance in the middle of the 19th century, are well known in European literature of dance. In the middle of the 1920s this was noticed chiefly by Hungarian ethnographers who, animated by the movement collecting folk dance music initiated and performed by Béla Bartok and Zoltán Kodály, decided to rescue what was still alive of the folk dance material. The ethnographer Sándor Gyönyey recorded folk dance on silent film as early as 1925. Later a large amount of material has been collected: 60,000 meters of dance films and many musical recordings. By now the number of amateur folk dance groups in Hungary has risen to above two thousand. Under the regular guidance of outstanding teacher-choreographers, the most talented members of these groups develop into artists capable of not only rendering folklore material convincingly but also undertaking the creation and new works rooted in folk art on yet a higher technical level, and conceived in a modern spirit. Original folk dances and games still survive in the villages and are recorded by amateur and professional researchers. Children's dances and songs are widely popular in various regions. Ancient songs can often be heard in the schoolyards, in the fields, and even in the parks of major towns where children dance in rounds, in semicircles, in star-shaped formations, sometimes with raised arms threadneedle-like. The patterns of these children's games are quite simple. In some regions where traditions are observed, the "couple dance" in the matchmaking games is performed in the style and with the steps of the Csardas of the grown-ups. The female dances are similar in pattern to the children's games; the girls sing and dance in rounds, first slowly and then swiftly. The traditional costumes have had a strong influence on the various female dances; with the Matyós around Mezokovesd, jumps on both feet are regular features along the hem of the skirt. IN the Sarkoz region where the skirts are ample and short, the swing of the hips is a frequent movement which is meant to enhance the swinging of the skirt. The footwear is another factor influencing the dancing; in South Transdanubia (Dunántul) the girls wearing cloth-soled flat slippers dance differently from those wearing heeled slippers, who live a distance of only ten miles away from those dancing in boots, in the northern regions. While women lived a rather secluded life and only within their family, the men had more opportunity for entertainment. In certain occupations it was also the custom to display strength and skill by dancing, and therefore the movements and expressions of the male dances are extremely rich. Three main types of male dance ca be distinguished:
soldiers' dances, pastoral dances, and dances performed with various instruments. In the group of soldiers' dances is the Haiduk (Hajdutánc) dance, performed with swords in the 16th century. It is known nowadays from historical documents. The still surviving Verbunk (Verbungos) has, however, preserved in memory the recruitments of bygone times. In the western part of the country the circular pattern still shows the circles which used to be joined by the
youngsters to be recruited, with the corporal in the middle. Although the central figure is sometimes omitted, both the music and the dance still show traces of the two original parts: the solo and the group dance. Some of the structurally well-defined Verbunk follow the traditional musical form, that is, by ever-changing variations. The joint clapping of hands, the slapping of boots
in intricated rhythms, and the simple movements performed by the larger number of dancers impart a certain monumentality to the dance. Verbunk has often been an inspiration to Hungarian composers. A classical example is Zoltán Kodaly's well known "recruiting dance" in his opera "Háry János." Several thousand
Roman Catholic Csángós of Gyimes live beyond the Carpathians, on the Moldavian slope, in the Gyimes Pass and in the mountains rising above it. They are a late offshoot of the Székely drive eastward (after Mádéfalvi veszedelem). Gyimesfelsolok, Gyimeskozeplok, and Gyimesbukk are their most important settlements. Their idiom of music and dance and the Hungarian part of their customs link them to the Székelys of Csik. Their traditional dances are the Recruiting dance, the Csardas, and the walk and turn of the Kettos (double). Another group of male dances comprises the pastoral (Herdsmen) dances. Nomadic stock raising was significant in Hungary up to the mid-19th century. Living outdoors winter and summer alike. Magyar pásztorok (herdsmen) had to rely on their own sill and strength to defend their herds against wolves and thieves. They acquired amazing skill in handling various tools, such as sticks, axes, and ropes. This skill was also demonstrated in their dances. The swift twirling of sticks or axes, the swishing and slashing movements with long whips, quick jumps, turns, and attacking and defending steps, as well as humorous playful elements, are characteristics of these dances. The dance style is adapted to the use of the tool, especially the stick held on the shoulders or crosswise on the back, or twirled around the fingers of one hand while slapping the boots with the other, or else used as a weapon for playful battle. Herdsmen's' dances are also performed without tools, as a sort of pantomime. In Northern Hungary (Felvidék) the swineherds have a popular dance: one of them throws his hat to the ground and dances around it as if defending his little pig from the thieves. Another dancer tries to snatch it but must be very careful not to be hit by the "owner," while both perform the typical "swineherd step" and the "public" provides the singing accompaniment. These dances used to be performed to the accompaniment of instruments made by the dancers themselves, such as bagpipes or citer. According to historical sources, the shepherds' dance has the longest history as a stage production. The great Hungarian poet Bálint Balassi is said to have danced it at the Pozsony Diet (Nemzetgyülés) of 1572 in front of the king. In the early 19th century, the peasant students of the first Agricultural Academy in Hungary, the Georgicon at Keszthely, demonstrated the swineherds' dances of the region to visitors from other parts of Hungary. The liveliest, most animated of Hungarian dances are the "couple dances." Newer variations are being added on to this day. In most villages the local dance in couples is nowadays called the Csárdás, a term coined in the 1840s by a journalist, but the origins of the Hungarian couple dances go back much further into history. Written documents testify to the popularity of the dance in all social layers from the kings to the peasants. Dancing entertainments were prohibited by the Church on many occasions in the Middle Ages.
In the early 19th century, the first enthusiastic ethnographers described
certain outstanding features of some dances and recorded a few dance names like Kopogós (reaping), Dobogós (stamping), and Tányéronforgó (twirling on the plate). In the 1830s and 1840s, when the national self-esteem grew higher, one of the expressions of this was the demand of the progressive people that along with Hungarian language and costume, Hungarian dances should also be introduced into the ballrooms. As a reaction to the Hapsburg oppression, not even the fashionable society dance the waltz met with enthusiastic reception, because it had reached Hungary via Vienna. It provoked an attempt to create a characteristically national society dance. We know of provincial balls where during the Carnival in 1843 nothing else was performed except the Csárdás. Its name was coined in 1842 when a correspondent of the Diet, writing about the ball of the nobility organized after the session, said that the dance performed there "was the same as the dance performed on Sundays by the peasant lads and girls in the Csárda (a village inn or pub)."
This name soon came to be applied to all couple dances, with additional distinctive attributes like "kemény csárdás" (tough), Kopogós csárdás (reaping), "félfordulós csárdás" (half-turn), etc. The Csárdás is characterized by the constant and free variation of steps and movements. It usually consists of a slow and a fast part. Folk dances are customary at family gatherings, weddings, and name days when the elder generation also joins in. Dances are also performed, however, on the occasions of entertainments such as harvest, vintage, etc. The original folk dance still exists in villages and towns all over the country. The Csárdás is danced throughout the country in the following succession of patterns: the boy and the girl dance in front of each other with his hand on her waist and hers on his shoulders. After various motifs (starting with two steps to the right and two steps the left), the couple whirls around or the girl pivots around the raised hand of the boy. In more archaic forms, the couples separate and the boy performs a spectacular solo while the girl turns about her own axis or imitates the steps of the boy with reduced dynamism. The dance usually ends in a twirling of the couple. Since the Csárdás is still popular, it is difficult to describe its proper characteristics. A comparative study of its variants will reveal the morphological features of all Hungarian folk dance dialects, including the Csárdás. From "Hungarian Civilization: A Short History with Bibliography" by Michael J Horvath, LL.D., M.S.L.S., University of Maryland, College Park
uple. Since the Csárdás is still popular, it is difficult to describe its proper characteristics. A comparative study of its variants will reveal the morphological features of all Hungarian folk dance dialects, including the Csárdás. From "Hungarian Civilization: A Short History with Bibliography" by Michael J Horvath, LL.D., M.S.L.S., University of Maryland, College Park

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