World

Obama safely navigates inaugural balls

Deborah Charles

In the end, the inaugural balls went off a little more smoothly than the oath of office as Barack Obama avoided stepping on his wife's toes.

In the end, the inaugural balls went off a little more smoothly than the oath of office.

US President Barack Obama, who fretted beforehand about the calibre of his dancing, avoided stepping on his wife’s toes but 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 gown with flowing skirt and little train by designer Jason Wu, headed out on the town after a day of ceremony and pageantry.

The presidency 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.

“We were up there, we’ve got a lot of stuff on our minds and he actually, I think helped me out on a couple of stanzas there,” Obama later told ABC News. “Overall, I think it went relatively smoothly and I’m very grateful to him.”

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,” he said.

The toes he managed to avoid as he slowly danced and twirled the first lady, but that train was a problem.

From the opening dance, to the tune of At Last sung by Beyonce at the Neighbourhood Inaugural Ball, the first lady found herself flicking the hem to keep it out of reach of the first foot.

The Neighbourhood Ball was a tribute to the community organising that propelled his campaign to the presidency.

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

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.

Obama said the Neighbourhood Ball and the Commander-in-Chief Ball best represented the spirit of his presidential campaign.

Jon Bon Jovi was entertaining the troops, included about 300 wounded from Walter Reed Medical Centre, with a rendition of Who Says You Can’t Go Home when the new president arrived.

“I’ll have to go off then come back because there’s someone who’s upstaging,” Bon Jovi announced, drawing a roar of approval, including Army “hooahs” and Marine “Semper Fis,” from the military crowd.

“As we gather here in Washington, we are sobered ... We are fighting two wars, we are facing dangerous threats,” Obama told the group. “Tonight we celebrate but tomorrow the work begins.” - Reuters

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