Robert Redford, singers Tony Bennett and Tina Turner, actress Julie Harris and ballerina/teacher Suzanne Farrell will receive Kennedy Center honours, the performing arts centre announced in Washington tonight.
“We honour five extraordinary American artists whose unique and abundant contributions to our culture have transformed our lives,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Recipients of the 28th annual honours will be recognised at a gala performance at the Kennedy Center on December 4, to be attended by President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will host the honourees at a State Department dinner on December 3.
A founder of the Sundance Institute and the Film Foundation and an acclaimed actor, director and producer, Redford, 68, was hailed by Schwarzman for his “extraordinary support of independent film”.
Schwarzman called Tony Bennett, 79, “a singer’s singer whom even the great Frank Sinatra called the best there is”.
Bennett’s talent became common knowledge in the 1950s and he continues to entertain today.
Among the world’s best-selling music artists, Tina Turner has drawn crowds with her singing and her acting since the late 1950s. Schwarzman said her “sizzling talent and indomitable spirit has made her one of the world’s best-loved entertainers”.
Actress Julie Harris made her screen debut in 1952 with an Academy Award-nominated performance in The Member of the Wedding.
She was in numerous acclaimed films and, throughout the 1980s, was a regular on the television show Knots Landing. Schwarzman called her “one of this country’s most acclaimed and revered actors”.
Suzanne Farrell, who received the National Medal of Arts in 2003 for her long and influential ballet career, was the most important dancer for legendary choreographer George Balanchine.
Schwarzman said her “profound artistry has inspired the creation of masterpieces”, and he applauded her for teaching ballet to a new generation.
The Kennedy Center, on the bank of the Potomac River not far from the White House, calls itself the US’ busiest arts facility.
It hosts more than 3,300 performances a year, including films, stage plays, musicals, ballet, jazz, the Washington National Opera, the National Symphony Orchestra, classical soloists and smaller ensembles.