Michael M. Kaiser, president of the center, presented the award before a performance of George Balanchine's Don Quixote, which Farrell has revived for its first performance in more than 25 years.
The $10,000 award celebrates, according to Capezio, a "significant contribution to American dance" and "honors a recipient who. . . brings respect, stature, and distinction to dance and. . . exhibits innovation, creativity, and imagination."
Farrell's "limitless" accomplishments, the citation said, "from dancer to coach to dance-company founder to artistic director to professor, epitomize the essence of the award. Her lifetime achievements place her amongst those extremely rare individuals who achieve greatness in all of their endeavors."
Farrell was one of Balanchine's most prominent ballerinas, performing in many ballets that he created for her. After she retired from performing in 1989, she went on to teach, and then to found Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the Kennedy Center.