Garret K. Woodward

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Standing in the lobby of the Smoky Mountain Cinema in Waynesville this past Monday morning, owner Greg Israel is putting the final touches on two years of planning and renovations to the theater for its grand reopening on Tuesday.

“I’m tired, mostly,” Israel chuckled. “But, I’m happy. Very pleased. I think it’s come a long way and people are going to be very happy about it.”

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The hardest part of being a journalist, and especially one whose core focus is music, is seeing those you were lucky enough to meet, interview and write about, pass away. 

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The history of rock-n-roll music is as wide and deep as an ocean, each drop of water a band, song or feeling radiating a sense of self into the endless universe.

And within that massive and undulating history, no wave was larger than that of the British Invasion in the 1960s. Sparked by The Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show Feb. 9, 1964, the musical charge “across the pond” from England to the United States included the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Who, The Dave Clark Five, The Animals, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Zombies and Herman’s Hermits. 

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Sliding into the booth at Waffle House, I cracked open Larry McMurtry’s novel All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers. Taking a sip of my coffee, I dove into the world of Danny Deck and his life in Houston, Texas, and greater America in the early 1970s. 

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Simply put, singer/guitarist Denny Laine is one of those mystical characters you cross paths with almost serendipitously. 

He’s an old soul really, someone who’s seen and experienced the world over. But, Laine is also happy to share that wisdom with whoever will sit and chat for a moment. It’s a cosmically curious conversation between two souls playfully in search of the answer to the eternal question — what does it all mean? 

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On Monday morning, as I woke up, packed and said goodbye to Bonnaroo for this year, I can say — in all honesty — that I’ve never had more gratitude in my life than at that moment in time. 

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Fortner to play Frog Level 

Americana/indie singer-songwriter Joey Fortner will perform at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at Frog Level Brewing in Waynesville. 

Formerly of Soldier’s Heart and Through the Hills, the Haywood County native is striking it out on his own with this rollicking new stage show, one of rock melodies and poignant ballads.

The show is free and open to the public. www.froglevelbrewing.com

 

Cowee welcomes Mountain Heart

Acclaimed bluegrass/jam act Mountain Heart will perform on the lawn at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at the Historic Cowee School in Franklin. 

The band has been fearlessly revolutionizing the way acoustic music can be presented and played, its name has been synonymous with cutting-edge excellence in acoustic music circles since the group’s creation. 

Mountain Heart, or its individual members, have been nominated for Grammys, ACM, and CMA awards. The band has also been nominated for, and won, multiple IBMAs. 

Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 6-16. Under age 6 free. Rain or shine. The Flying Cloud food truck will be onsite. Tickets available at the Franklin Chamber, www.coweeschool.org, or at the door.

 

Also:

• Balsam Falls Brewing (Sylva) will host an open mic from 8 to 10 p.m. every Thursday. Free and open to the public. www.balsamfallsbrewing.com. 

• Boojum Brewing (Waynesville) will host semi-regular live music on the weekends. Free and open to the public. 828.246.0350 or www.boojumbrewing.com. 

• The Classic Wineseller (Waynesville) will host Jay Brown (guitar/vocals) 7 p.m. May 22. Reservations required. 828.452.6000 or www.classicwineseller.com.

• Elevated Mountain Distilling Company will host semi-regular live music on the weekends. Free and open to the public. www.elevatedmountain.com. 

• Frog Level Brewing (Waynesville) will host TMJ May 14, Joey Fortner (Americana/indie) May 15 and The Never B’s May 21. All shows begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. www.froglevelbrewing.com. 

• Historic Cowee School (Franklin) will host Mountain Heart (bluegrass/jam) on the lawn at 7 p.m. May 15. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 6-16. Under age 6 free. Rain or shine. Tickets available at the Franklin Chamber, www.coweeschool.org, or at the door.

• Lazy Hiker Brewing (Franklin) will host Andrew Thelston Band (Led Zeppelin tribute set) May 15 and Tea 4 Three May 22. All shows begin at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. www.lazyhikerbrewing.com.

• Lazy Hiker Brewing (Sylva) will host Andrew Thelston Band (Led Zeppelin tribute set) May 14 and Natti Love Joys May 21. All shows begin at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. www.lazyhikerbrewing.com.

• Macon County Public Library (Franklin) will host The Vagabonds (classic country/oldies) 2 p.m. May 17. Safety protocols will be enforced. Free and open to the public. 828.524.3600. 

• Mountain Layers Brewing (Bryson City) will host Bird In Hand May 14, Shane Meade May 15, Aly Jordan May 21 and Somebody’s Child May 22. All shows begin at 6 p.m. Free and open to the public. 828.538.0115 or www.mtnlayersbeer.com. 

• Nantahala Brewing (Sylva) will host Freeway Jubilee (jam/rock) May 14. All shows begin at 8 p.m. Free and open to the public. www.nantahalabrewing.com.

• Unplugged Pub (Bryson City) will host Carolina Freightshakers May 15 and Blackjack Country May 20. All shows begin at 8 p.m. Free and open to the public. 

• Water’n Hole Bar & Grill (Waynesville) will host semi-regular live music on the weekends. 828.456.4750 or www.facebook.com/waternhole.bar.

MusicWorks! earns distinguished certification 

MusicWorks! Studio of Performing Arts in Clyde has become the first dance studio in the region to achieve Youth Protection Advocates in Dance certification. The certification marks its commitment to keeping kids happy, healthy and safe in dance. 

YPAD is the nation’s only dance certification program focusing on both safety and wellness for dance students. To earn the designation, studios must complete two training tracks. 

The first track centers on dance safety and educational best practices. It focuses on background checks, CPR and First Aid, abuse awareness and prevention, injury prevention and response, and safety and emergency preparedness. 

The second focuses on the wellness and development of youth dancers and covers social media, social media safety, today’s dance culture, developmentally appropriate artistry, body image, nutrition, disordered eating, bullying, and conflict resolution. Only studios that complete both tracks are eligible for certification.

“We want to do more than just teach great dance at MusicWorks, said studio owner Lynne Meyer. “We want to help develop healthy, happy dancers with an environment that focuses on the well-being of kids. Of course, this also helps us contribute to a sustainable, safe future for dance overall.”

www.performwithmusicworks.com.

 

Also:

• The comedy mystery “Clue” will hit the stage at 7 p.m. May 7-8 and 14-15, and 2:30 p.m. May 9 and 16 at Swain County High School Performing Arts Center. Based on the iconic 1985 Paramount movie which was inspired by the classic Hasbro board game, “Clue” is a hilarious farce-meets-murder mystery. The tale begins at a remote mansion, where six mysterious guests assemble for an unusual dinner party where murder and blackmail are on the menu. Advance tickets may be purchased at swainhs.seatyourself.biz

Do you like strawberries?

The 21st annual Strawberry Jam festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at Darnell Farms in Bryson City.

The Darnell family celebrates their locally grown strawberry crop. Enjoy local music, local food, fresh fruits and vegetables, craft vendors, plow demonstrations, childrens play area, hayrides, fishing, camping, and much more. 

Admission is free. Donations accepted for the upkeep and maintenance of the farm. 828.488.2376.

 

Also:

• “G&LW Wholesale Gem Show” will be held May 14-16 in Franklin. The trade shows are produced in many major trade centers across the United States for the convenience of wholesale buyers. For the past 43 years, G&LW’s multiple show venues have been, and continue to be, a top gem and mineral buyer destination. 601.879.8832 or www.glwshows.com. 

• “Dillsboro After Five” will take place from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m on Wednesdays in downtown Dillsboro. Start with a visit to the Jackson County Farmers Market located in the Innovation Station parking lot. Stay for dinner and shopping. www.mountainlovers.com. 

• There will be a free wine tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. every Thursday and 2 to 5 p.m every Saturday at The Wine Bar & Cellar in Sylva. 828.631.3075. 

• The “Uncorked: Wine & Rail Pairing Experience” will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on select dates at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City. Full service all-adult first class car. Wine pairings with a meal, and more. 800.872.4681 or www.gsmr.com. 

Want to paint, sip craft beer?

The “WNC Paint Night” will return to local breweries in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties.

With step-by-step instructions, you will paint yourself a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. This is pure fun to do while you sip on something tasty at the brewery. 

Events will be held at the following locations: Mountain Layers Brewing (Bryson City) from 6 to 8 p.m. May 13, June 24, July 22, Aug. 19, Sept. 16, Oct. 14, Nov. 11 and Dec. 9; and Balsam Falls Brewing (Sylva) from 6 to 8 p.m. May 26, June 23, July 21, Aug. 18, Sept. 29, Oct. 27, Nov. 17 and Dec. 22; BearWaters Brewing (Canton) from 6 to 8 p.m. May 27, June 25, July 8, Aug. 5, Sept. 2 and 30, Nov. 12 and Dec. 23.

Space is limited. Reserve your seat by texting Robin Arramae at 828.400.9560. To learn more, visit the Facebook page @paintwnc or Instagram @wnc_paint_events. 

 

Also:

• “Paint-N-Pour” will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 19, at Balsam Falls Brewing in Sylva. Cost is $20 per person. All materials provided. RSVP at Balsam Falls Brewing’s Facebook page. For more information, click on www.balsamfallsbrewing.com. 

• Open call for artists to sell their work in the Carriage House Gift Shop at the historic Shelton House in Waynesville. 757.894.2293. 

Five years ago, Michelle and Robby Railey had one question in mind. “How do we get to the next level?” Michelle said.

It’s just after 5 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 64 and N.C. 107 in the village of Cashiers. Otherwise known as the “Crossroads,” the junction — atop a mountainous plateau at the southern end of Jackson County — is usually buzzing with tourists and second-homeowners spring through fall. And, normally, it’s relatively silent when winter rears its head. 

Halfway up a steep hill in downtown Waynesville, and just a stone’s throw from the Haywood County Historic Courthouse, sits Orchard Coffee.

“I love coffee because I love people,” said Cabell Tice, co-owner of Orchard Coffee. “I’ve always really enjoyed connecting with people. Coffee is a vessel for reaching people — there’s nothing like a conversation over coffee.” 

Though his fingers seemingly wrap around a walking cane more than his trusty banjo these days, Raymond Fairchild remains one of the finest musicians who ever picked up the five-string acoustic instrument — alive or six feet under. 

The first week I lived and worked in Western North Carolina, I slept underneath my desk in the old newsroom of The Smoky Mountain News on Church Street in downtown Waynesville.

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According to recent numbers, there are around 75 breweries within Asheville and greater Western North Carolina. And 19 of those breweries are located west of Asheville. 

But, back in 1999, when The Smoky Mountain News launched, this was the number of breweries in our jurisdiction — zero. None. Not a single one. The idea of craft beer, let alone something concocted in your backyard, was not only somewhat unheard of, it never was thought to be something of an economic driver. 

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Actor/comedian Ken Jeong will be performing live at 9 p.m. Friday, May 31, at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Event Center. 

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The first time I was aware that my grandfather, Frank Kavanaugh, served in the military was being nine years old in 1994 and watching him talk on the local North Country TV channel, Home Town Cable. 

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When you find yourself in the presence of Marty Stuart, you find yourself in the presence of the entire living, breathing history of country and bluegrass music. 

Hailing from the small rural town of Philadelphia, Mississippi, the legendary singer/musician took off for the open road at age 12, performing with various groups throughout the Southeast. By the time he was 14, he had secured a position in bluegrass forefather Lester Flatt’s band. 

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Sitting high up in the Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville last Thursday night, I couldn’t help but wonder what my Uncle Scott would think about all of this.

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Up-and-coming on the Americana/indie scene, Grizzly Goat was formed in Provo, Utah, and is now based in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

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It’s part Simon & Garfunkel, part Abbott & Costello. 

When you listen to The Milk Carton Kids, you’re hearing some of the most poignant, soul-searching and timeless acoustic music of this century — perhaps any century, truth-be-told. 

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The world has gone haywire and David Crosby is mad as hell about it.

And though the years may change on the calendar, the issues affecting our society tend to remain front and center — corruption, discrimination, poverty, pollution, and so forth. 

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With the wind howling in my face, the Polaris ATV rounded the third curve of the Rockingham Speedway. The odometer read 60 mph. It was midnight. Sunday into Monday. And all I could think of was the absurdity of this serendipitous moment.

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Halfway up a steep hill in downtown Waynesville, and just a stone’s throw from the Haywood County Historic Courthouse, sits Orchard Coffee.

“I love coffee because I love people,” said Cabell Tice, co-owner of Orchard Coffee. “I’ve always really enjoyed connecting with people. Coffee is a vessel for reaching people — there’s nothing like a conversation over coffee.” 

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Crossing the threshold of Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack in West Asheville recently, I scanned the space looking for my old friend, Heather. And there she was, sitting on the patio, sipping a beer and looking over the menu deciding how hot she was willing to order her chicken tenders. 

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Though his fingers seemingly wrap around a walking cane more than his trusty banjo these days, Raymond Fairchild remains one of the finest musicians who ever picked up the five-string acoustic instrument — alive or six feet under. 

“I just count myself another mountain picker. I don’t think I’m no better than anybody else, but I think I’m as good as any of’em — that’s the legacy,” Fairchild said with his trademark grin. “When they ask me when I’m going to retire, I say when somebody comes along and beats me at picking the banjo — and they said, ‘you’ll never retire.’” 

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These days, Megan and Bryan Thurman call a 31-foot Airstream home. The iconic silver travel trailer is currently parked on a picturesque property in the rural southern edge of Sylva. 

Last Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the shooting massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

It’s been on mind all this week, between new reports remembering that day and also my own personal thoughts. I was 14 years old and in eighth grade on April 20, 1999. It was spring break. My parents, little sister and I piled into the old minivan in Upstate New York and headed for Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

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When it comes to the truly innovative and distinct jam acts of the modern era, Perpetual Groove is a name that’s been roaring back into the scene in recent years.

Formed in Savannah, Georgia, in 1997, the group was ahead of its time with a seamless blend of exploratory rock-n-roll and electronica influences. The foundation was built upon the curious melodic nature and reflective songwriting of Phish and Widespread Panic, but was also highly immersed in the sonic possibilities found in the late-night rave and festival circuits back then.

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After a long week and weekend grinding away, I had to bust out and disappear into the woods. And yet, I looked out my apartment window on Sunday afternoon and it was pouring rain. 

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Who: Melody Trucks Band & Donna Hopkins Band

What: Daughter of the late Butch Trucks, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer for The Allman Brothers Band, Melody has hit the road with a group of her own in recent years — a large and very talented ensemble of the best of what Florida song and dance has to offer.

Where: From 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, April 12, at the Lazy Hiker Brewing Company in Franklin. The Melody Trucks Band will also perform with the Taylor Martin Band from 8 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at the Salvage Station in Asheville.

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In a leap of faith move last summer, Americana/indie act The Brothers Gillespie left its native Waynesville and took off over the state line to Johnson City, Tennessee. 

Comprised of three Gillespie siblings — Davis (singer/rhythm guitar), Clay (drums), Aaron (lead guitar) — and longtime friend Max Pollifrone (bass), the quartet chose Johnson City to create and perform its music as Clay finished up college at nearby East Tennessee State University (where he’s currently studying Appalachian music). 

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Pulling off US-11E and into some random person’s backyard last Saturday afternoon, I handed the woman $10 and was directed to park my truck along the tree line behind the rickety garage. 

Stepping out of the vehicle, I could hear the sounds of 110-mph stock cars roaring around the half-mile track across the street at the Bristol Motor Speedway — “The Last Great Colosseum” — in the rolling hills of Eastern Tennessee.

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The voice of Claire Lynch is incredibly soothing — in conversation and in front of a microphone.

With a songbird tone and cadence, the singer is like a free-flowing breeze, something that swirls around you and picks you up, as if you’re a fallen leaf at the peak of beauty, eager to once again sit high in the sky.

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This past Saturday, I went on a first date. It had been a very long time since I’d actually gone on a date, let alone a “first date.”

But, there I was, trimming my beard in the bathroom mirror and making sure I brushed my teeth one more time before I headed out the door and into the unknown night. 

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So, there I was last Saturday afternoon, sitting on a couch in the depths of country music legend Marty Stuart’s tour bus. Right across from me, positioned on the other side of the table — the other side of my tape recorder — was Stuart himself, his trademark silver mane fluttering whenever he’d move his head while in thought and within conversation. 

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Leaning back in his chair, in an office tucked in the depths of a large studio building, a slight grin rolls across the face of Steven Lloyd. 

“I would never have envisioned this,” Lloyd said in a humble tone. “I would have never thought 30 years ahead and have pictured this. But, everything has evolved.”

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When you run through the gamut of truly great rock bands, the name Foreigner tends to usually be somewhere near the top. With over 80 million records sold, the group soaked the radio dial through the 1970s and 1980s with a string of iconic hits, many of which becoming lifelong anthems for countless fans. 

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Right around this time of year, journalists from across the state gather at the North Carolina Press Association awards ceremony in Raleigh. It’s a chance for all of us “in the trenches” to catch up, compare notes, and simply take a moment to reflect on another year in the books.

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In terms of journalism and media in North Carolina, very few names are as recognizable as that of Frank Stasio. Host of the WUNC (North Carolina Public Radio) weekday program “The State of Things” (based out of the American Tobacco Historic District in Durham), Stasio and his platform have become a beacon of light for politics, culture, history and societal dialogue across the Tar Heel State. 

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Arguably the hardest working man in rock-n-roll, guitar legend Warren Haynes has never been one to shy away from testing his own boundaries, blurring the lines between the knowns and unknowns of music — especially when performed live. 

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Since he first burst out on the music scene with his debut album in 2002, soul/rock singer-songwriter Citizen Cope has remained a warrior for social justice and compassion through his perceptive, poetic lyrical wordplay within a signature fiery live performance.

With his latest release, “Heroin and Helicopters,” Cope once again aims to not only shed light on the flaws in our country and the greater world at-hand, he also constructs a melodic bridge between you and me (and us).

And though it seems we may be spinning our wheels in the mud year after year, Cope pushes ahead, head held high, knowing damn well that as long as you have hope, the good of humanity will prevail.

Want to go?

Citizen Cope will hit the stage at 9 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, at The Orange Peel in Asheville. Tickets are $35 per person. David Ramirez will open the show. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, click on www.theorangepeel.net.

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Way out in Graham County, high up in the rugged wilderness of the Nantahala National Forest, is a lonely stretch of N.C. 28.

To the north lies Robbinsville, to the south the Swain County line. But, where you’re standing, seemingly in the middle-of-nowhere, is actually the hottest ticket in Western North Carolina — the “An Appalachian Evening” series at the Stecoah Valley Center.

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It was 60 years ago this past weekend (March 2, 1959) when Miles Davis’ seminal “Kind of Blue” album was recorded. This is an immortal masterpiece, a cornerstone of not only American music, but the music of the world, too. 

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The hardest balance for a rock band is to straddle the line between honest emotions in your lyrics and also simply being able to get people to groove along to what beats and tones swirl around the wordplay. 

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In a recent New York Times article, “What Charles Bukowski’s Glamorous Displays of Alcoholism Left Out,” the piece analyzed and deconstructed the legendary (albeit infamous) poet/writer, ultimately putting a spotlight on someone greatly idolized, but also just as greatly detested for his behavior and antics. 

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It’s just after 5 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 64 and N.C. 107 in the village of Cashiers. Otherwise known as the “Crossroads,” the junction — atop a mountainous plateau at the southern end of Jackson County — is usually buzzing with tourists and second-homeowners spring through fall. And, normally, it’s relatively silent when winter rears its head. 

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Ah, Valentine’s Day.

Upstate New York in the late 1990s. Middle school and Valentine’s Day dances in that a-typical gymnasium. Crappy late 90s hip-hop and pop music. Tongue-tied couples slow dancing. I was the 13-year-old kid running around the gym, kind of poking fun at the couples, but also secretly wishing that girl in my ninth period math class would save one for me on her dance card. 

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