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I once thought I knew what modern dance was. But my first day of college, I stood in the back of Viola Farber’s intermediate/advanced dance class and watched in pure terror as she demonstrated what she expected us to do. Farber, an original member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, raised her right arm, lifted her leg knee-high, stomped her feet, stepped forward, pivoted, jerked her body, lunged. Then she stopped, nodded to the accompanist and waited for us to dance like her. Where were the counts? When exactly did the phrase begin and end? Why was the music so rhythmically disconnected from the dance? Farber, by then a legend, asserted that she had her own style of dance completely different from Cunningham’s. But her years with “Merce” had left their mark. Why Cunningham’s influence is inescapable should be apparent when his company comes to D.C. this week to perform a new work commissioned by the Kennedy Center. Interscape, a piece for 14 dancers, features a 1991 cello composition by John Cage and a set designed by artist Robert Rauschenberg, both of whom began collaborating with Cunningham in the 1940s. In addition to this new piece, the company will perform two repertory works created 40 years apart. Summer Space, a 1958 piece, also showcases Rauschenberg’s fragmented, sweeping visuals. The more recent composition, 1998’s Pond Way (pictured), is set to the music of Brian Eno and features a set by Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. Re-educate yourself at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 7, and Saturday, April 8, at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. $22-$35. (202) 467-4600. (Holly Bass)