Less than a year into the new millennium-October 7, 2000, to be more precise-The Guardian of London ran a 4,000-word profile of the choreographer Merce Cunningham. Several paragraphs into the essay, readers were matter of factly informed that “Merce Cunningham is, without doubt, the world’s greatest living choreographer.” The most remarkable thing about this declaration was how utterly unremarkable it proved to be. Rather than provoking a flurry of outraged letter writing from the partisans of other major living choreographers, the phrase “without doubt” seemed simply to underscore the obvious. Imagine if the newspaper had stated, with self-evident certitude, that Frank Gehry is “without doubt” the world’s greatest living architect, Gerhart Richter is “without doubt” the world’s greatest living painter, or Arvo Pärt is “without doubt” the world’s greatest living composer. In any of those alternative scenarios, the ensuing controversy would have been both swift and clamorous. But given that George Balanchine and Martha Graham are no longer with us, Merce Cunningham is the last of the great, groundbreaking 20th century choreographers. It’s not that Pina Bausch doesn’t have her fierce partisans, especially in Europe. And, in this country, one could reasonably nominate Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, or, perhaps, even Mark Morris. All are great choreographers, but none has exerted the sort of influence that makes Cunningham such a logical-some would say inevitable-choice for this honor.