*Talk show titan Oprah Winfrey and dancer, choreographer, director Bill T. Jones are included in the prestigious crop of artists selected for this Kennedy Center Honors.
The two will be saluted at the 33rd annual event in Washington on Dec. 5, along with musician and former Beatles member Paul McCartney, country singer-songwriter Merle Haggard; and Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman, producers announced today.
“I love surprising people, I don’t like being surprised,” Winfrey told The Associated Press. “Releasing any kind of control over a show and allowing myself to sit there and be surprised is not going to be easy but I’m willing to do that.”
Winfrey is used to celebrating others, both on her popular television show and at previous Kennedy Center Honors programs, but she said she’s looking forward to being celebrated this time around.
“When I’ve done them in the past for people, it has always felt a little bit like being bombarded with a love festival that is about you, and you know that’s gotta feel good,” Winfrey said during a phone interview with AP in between filming for her show’s 25th and final season.
The Kennedy Center Honors recognizes performing artists for their contributions to American culture. Winners are selected by the Kennedy Center’s Board of Trustees.
President Barack Obama and the first lady will host the 2010 honorees at the White House before attending the gala with them at the Kennedy Center.
Jones, who co-founded the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company as part of an openly gay, interracial couple, says the award and White House reception will shape his worldview.
“I’ve always had this kind of position of feeling just outside, maybe the other, I don’t know why but maybe a stepchild,” Jones said. “As one gets older and you realize that your brand of art-making with its implied protest is actually something that people in positions of power respect, it’s a very important change, very important change, it makes you feel more of a sense of responsibility but it’s a responsibility you can accept joyfully.”
The gala will be recorded for broadcast as a two-hour prime-time special on CBS. This year’s will air Dec. 28.