January 21, 2009 / 6:58 AM / in 9 years

Fretful dancer Obama navigates inaugural balls

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the end, the inaugural balls went off a little more smoothly than the oath of office.

<p>President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle dance at the Biden Home States Inaugural Ball in Washington January 20, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young</p>

President Barack Obama, who fretted beforehand about the caliber of his dancing, avoided stepping on his wife’s toes but he kept running into trouble with the train of her very long white gown through the evening’s 10 balls.

Obama, dressed in a tuxedo with white tie, and first lady Michelle Obama, in a one-shouldered full-length white gown with flowing skirt and little train by designer Jason Wu, headed out on the town after a day of ceremony and pageantry.

The day got off to a wobbly start when Obama and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts stepped on each other’s lines during the administration of the presidential oath of office.

By comparison, the first couple were a picture of gracefulness at the balls. Sort of.

Obama confided to USA Today before the balls that he was a bit worried about the dancing.

“Michelle keeps knocking my dancing in public in ways that have hurt my feelings, so I probably should practice just ‘cause she’ll tease me mercilessly if I step on her toes,” said Obama.

The toes he managed to avoid as he slowly danced and twirled the first lady for their solo dance at each of the 10 official balls. It was the train that was a problem.

From their first dance, to the tune of “At Last” sung by Beyonce at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, the first lady kept flicking the hem to keep it out of reach of the first foot.

The Neighborhood Ball was a tribute to the community organizing that propelled his campaign to the presidency.

“We got the idea for the Neighborhood Ball because we are neighborhood people, and I cut my teeth doing neighborhood work,” Obama said. “This campaign was organized neighborhood by neighborhood.”

A LITTLE ROMANCE

At the Home States Ball, supporters tried to encourage a little romance between the dancing first couple with chants of the Spanish word for kiss: “Beso, Beso, Beso.” But the first lady shook her head no.

By the end of the evening, the president decided to take control and he gave his wife a big hug and a romantic kiss as they finished their last inaugural dance.

In speeches at each ball -- which got shorter as the night went on -- Obama spoke of the election and of the promises he made during the campaign, including improving the ailing economy.

”You achieved what nobody believed was possible,“ he said at the Southern regional ball. ”If we can win an election that way then we can put people to work that way.

At the Youth Ball, Obama thanked the people who were the driving force behind his campaign, particularly in its early stages.

“When you look at the history of this campaign that started out as an improbable journey, when nobody gave us a chance ... (it) was energized by young people all across America,” he said to chants of his campaign slogan “Yes we can.”

”As we gather here in Washington, we are sobered,“ he said at the Commander in Chief’s ball, where artists like Jon Bon Jovi entertained troops including 300 wounded soldiers. ”We are fighting two wars, we are facing dangerous threats.

“Tonight we celebrate, but tomorrow the work begins.”

Additional reporting by Jasmin Melvin and Randall Mikkelsen; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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