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Merce Cunningham’s company performed a world premiere Thursday night at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House. It also happened to be the choreographer’s 90th birthday. After the show, which drew Marisa Tomei, Parker Posey, Dorothy Lichtenstein and balletomane Anne Bass, the audience serenaded Cunningham with “Happy Birthday,” led by Audra McDonald. Before the gala dinner, the nonagenarian spoke of his humble beginnings. “My mother was quite worried about me because she didn’t see much future in dance,” he reminisced. “But my father told her, ‘That fellow — if he weren’t a dancer, he’d be a crook.’”

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