The award marks Marakova’s contribution to the American and international cultural life. At 71, she is a prominent ballet teacher and choreographer, a movie and theater actress and producer, and also an art patron. But ballet has always come first for her. In the 1960s, Makarova was the prima ballerina of the Kirov Ballet in St. Petersburg. The public admired her. But in 1970, while on a ballet tour abroad, she asked for political asylum in Britain and later moved to the United States. The prima of the American Ballet Theater in New York, the invited soloist of the London Royal Ballet and the Paris National Opera, the muse of leading European ballet masters John Niemeyer and Roland Petit, Makarova quickly rose to international fame. But it was not until Gorbachev’s “perestroika” that the “first lady of the world ballet” reappeared on the St. Petersburg stage in 1988. Her first words were the words of gratitude to her Vaganova Ballet School and her theater.
"One thing I know for sure is that without the baggage I had received here, first at the Vaganova School and then at the theater – without that, I would have never made a career in the West."
The “baggage” she referred to was classical ballet, and the so-called “ballet Everest” – the part of Odette/Odile in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. Recalling that iconic, yet the most technically difficult role, Makarova said:
"I’ve had my share of ups and downs – it was hard. But work gave me strength. I was engaged in lots of performances and I danced them lots of times. I recall how, during a tour in South Africa, we gave 14 “Swan Lakes” per day. I feared nothing after that."
Italian ballet legend Carla Fracci once said about Makarova: “Her portfolio was always OK because she had always been a star”. Makarova’s star rises more and more often on the Russian horizon. In the early 90s, theater director Roman Viktyuk gave her a lead role in his performance “Two on a Swing Board”. Two years ago, she attended a grand party in her honor at the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater, the former Kirov Ballet. This year, she chaired the jury of the Dance Open international ballet prize.
In early December, Makarova and the two other honorees – popular Hollywood actor Dustin Hoffman and the British rock band Led Zeppelin - will accept the Kennedy Center’s awards from the hands of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.