Emmy Award-winning dancer and choreographer and 1999 Kennedy Center Honoree Judith Jamison, the Artistic Director for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, paid tribute to the Russian-born, Tony Award-winning and Emmy-nominated prima ballerina Natalia Makarova, who performed with Jamison in the American Ballet Theatre. Jamison began, “‘I responded to destiny.’ That’s what Natalia Makarova said in London just before her 30th birthday. She was touring with Russia’s fabulous Kirov Ballet. She knew she needed new choreography to fulfill her promise as a dancer, so she made the brave decision to make a new life in the West, wondering how she would survive without her home and her language. On that day, Natalia Makarova started a journey that would introduce her to America, where she would thrill audiences and enhance and enrich the American Ballet Theatre. Banners would hang from the balconies of the Metropolitan Opera House saying, ‘We Love You Natalia.’ As a colleague and a great admirer, I’m so delighted that we honor her tonight.”
Jamison continued, “Natalia is a rare story of life coming full circle. Twenty years after she made her painful decision to leave her native land, she returned to a changing Leningrad and to her beloved Kirov Theater, where she had studied and had become a star. There, at the Kirov, she gave her farewell performance, dancing on the stage where it had all begun for her – then taking curtain calls to thunderous cheers and cascades of flowers. Natalia, your passion and your artistry are loved around the world. On behalf of dancers everywhere, I salute you!” Jamison then introduced a beautiful dance tribute to Makarova, beginning with young dancer Grace Ann Pierce, from the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, dancing to the Chopin Prelude in A Major, Op. 28 No. 7. This was followed by New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck, performing to Waltz, Op. 64, No. 3. Then, Royal Ballet of London principal dancer Alina Cojocaru and Angel Corella, the Artistic Director and principal dancer of the Barcelona Ballet, presented a pas de deux from the ballet “Giselle.” Then, American Ballet Theatre principal dancers David Hallberg and Julie Kent continued the tribute with a moving rendition of the balcony pas de deux from the ballet, “Romeo and Juliet.” Finally, the dancing concluded with an awe-inspiring rendition of “Black Swan,” performed by American Ballet Theatre principal dancers Marcelo Gomes and Veronika Part.