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Miss Makarova was the first exiled artist to return to the Soviet Union before its fall, dancing with the Kirov Ballet in 1989.

“What a remarkable twist of fate that I chose to leave my homeland and came to America to start a new life,” she said. “I feel very privileged that through me Kennedy Center honors classical ballet.”

The three surviving members of Britain’s Led Zeppelin — John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant — are being honored for transforming the sound of rock ‘n’ roll. They influenced many other bands with their innovative, blues-infused hits, such as “Good Times Bad Times,” “Immigrant Song,” “Kashmir” and “Stairway to Heaven.”

The band, which has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, issued a joint statement saying America was the first place to embrace its music.

“We owe a large debt to the vitality and variety of the music of the American people,” they wrote.

In television, Mr. Letterman’s unconventional wit and charm has made him “one of the most influential personalities,” Mr. Rubenstein said.

Mr. Letterman said it was a wonderful honor for his family, his co-workers at CBS‘ “Late Night With David Letterman” and himself. In 1993, Mr. Letterman helped honor one of his mentors, Johnny Carson, with the Kennedy Center prize, delivering one of his signature Top 10 lists about the longtime “Tonight Show” host.

“I believe recognition at this prestigious level confirms my belief that there has been a mix-up,” he said in a written statement. “I am still grateful to be included.”