Makarova, 72, is no stranger to the Kennedy Center. She won a Tony Award for best actress in a musical for the center's 1984 production of "On Your Toes."
Makarova said before the gala that she considers American ballet "fantastic," adding, "I think it will grow and grow. The interest will never stop."
The audience Sunday night will also feel the rhythm in performances honoring blues legend Buddy Guy. Born into a Louisiana sharecropper family, Guy eventually made Chicago his home at the peak of the blues era in the Windy City. And with his distinct guitar sound, the six-time Grammy Award winner helped pioneer the electric blues with other legends including Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.
"From picking cotton in the field to picking a guitar in the White House, that is a long ways man," Guy told reporters at the Kennedy Center.
The president called Guy "one of the last guardians of the great American blues."
And the stage will continue to rock in a tribute to John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant -- the three surviving members of the band Led Zeppelin. Famed drummer John Bonham passed away in 1980.
Having sold more than 100 million albums in the United States alone, the British band has churned out a number of classics, including "Whole Lotta Love," "Thank You," and the enduring song: "Stairway to Heaven."
Though thanking the group for "making us all feel young," Obama took the liberty of joking about the trio during his remarks in the East Room, noting how the group redefined "the rock and roll lifestyle."
"There were some hotel rooms trashed, mayhem all around," the president said. "So it is fitting that we are doing this in a room with windows three inches thick."
"So guys, settle down, these paintings are valuable," Obama joked.
Asked on the red carpet if part of him wanted to get on stage and join the tribute, Plant said, "Absolutely."
"I've always got a little bit of agitation in me," he continued. "That's what keeps me going. But I'm not going to show anybody how to do it."
The trio is scheduled to join fellow honoree Letterman on the "The Late Show" on Monday.
The Kennedy Center Honors will air December 26 on CBS.