WASHINGTON (AP) - "At Last" may have been just what President
Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were thinking Tuesday night as
they glided through their first inaugural dance to the Etta James
The Obamas were the star attraction at the 10 inaugural
celebrations they attended into the early hours of Wednesday. The
celebrations marked the end of a long day of formal inaugural
events and the two-year campaign that put them in the White House.
The president pulled his wife close and they danced a slow,
dignified two-step while, offstage, Beyonce sang. The president
spun first lady Michelle Obama once in a half-turn.
Obama cut loose in a faster groove a few minutes later, as
Shakira, Mary J. Blige, Faith Hill and Mariah Carey sang along with
Stevie Wonder to his "Signed, Sealed, Delivered." The song was
played at nearly all of Obama's rallies throughout the campaign.
"You could tell that's a black president from the way he was
moving," comedian Jamie Foxx joked following the dance.
The president wore white tie, while Michelle shimmered in a
white, one-shouldered, floor-length gown. It was embellished from
top to bottom with white floral details and made by 26-year-old New
York designer Jason Wu.
"First of all, how good looking is my wife?" Obama asked the
crowd of celebrities and supporters.
At the Obama Home States ball, the president pulled the first
lady much closer than he did on their first dance. At one point, he
wrapped both arms around her waist and locked his fingers together
at the small of her back.
"Hello, everybody. Aloha. What's going on?" Obama said in the
dialects of the Hawaii and Illinois contingents, saying they
reflected his roots. "So many of you got involved not just in our
campaign but in our lives."
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden each saluted the nation's
military men and women at the Commander in Chief Ball via
satellite. Biden said he wasn't looking forward to his moment in
the spotlight - the dancing, that is.
"The thing that frightens me the most (is) I'm going to have to
stand in that circle and dance in a minute." At that, he laughed
and did a quick sign of the cross.
The Obamas were more enthusiastic, splitting up to dance with
Marine Sgt. Elidio Guillen of Madera, Calif. - who was shorter than
dance partner Michelle - and Army Sgt. Margaret H. Herrera of San
Antonio, Texas, who cried in the president's arms.
Despite the formal attire and celebrity entertainment, balls
aren't overly fancy affairs. Lines often are long to get in, go to
the bathroom or check your coat, and the food is heavy on
vegetables with dip and cheese cubes.
In a sign, perhaps, of the tough economic times, guests who
already paid anywhere from $75 for a ticket to thousands more for a
package deal had to buy their own drinks served in small plastic
cups. Beer went for $6, cocktails for $9 and champagne for $12.
People were standing in line outside Union Station to get into
the Eastern States Ball an hour and a half after it started.
Because of very limited seating at the Western ball, a number of
attendees in long gowns and fancy dress plopped cross-legged on the
"This is what happens in a down economy. No chairs, no highboys
- it's the floor and plastic cups," commented ballgoer Brig
Lawson, 38, of Las Vegas.
Director Ron Howard said he sympathized with the long day Obama
"I feel bad for him," Howard said in an interview with The
Associated Press at the Western Ball. "He's had a long day and now
he has to do seven dances. This has got to be the grueling part for
the first family."
At the Obama Home States ball, the dance floor was dominated by
two little girls who skipped and twirled in matching red dresses
while the grown-ups stood still, crowded around the stage waiting
for Obama to appear.
Singer Sheryl Crow, doing a sound check for the Midwestern Ball,
said she was homesick.
"I have not seen my child in four days. I'm miserable," she
told her band between songs.
But there was still plenty of fun to be had at the official
balls and dozens of other parties around Washington.
Crow was greeted by a cheering crowd later for her appropriate
hit, "A Change Would Do You Good." When hip-hop star Wyclef Jean
asked the men at the Mid-Atlantic Ball to pull off their tuxedo
jackets and swing them in the air to show their support for Barack
Obama, thousands did.
At the Youth Ball, Kid Rock belted out songs as well-dresed
20-somethings mingled about. One of them walked up to a bartender,
gave him a high five and said, "Barack Obama is president!"
The Obamas, following Kid Rock and Kanye West, got the real
rock-star reception and launched into something of an awkward
dance, laughing as they swayed. When they were done, the president
grabbed a mic and said, "That's what's called old school."
At the Midwestern Ball, he joked that it was time to "dance
with the one who brung me, who does everything that I do except
backwards and in heels."
And though the mood was celebratory, the reality that the
country remains at war hung over the festivities at the Commander
in Chief ball and a separate Heroes Red White & Blue Ball.
"Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers today,
every day, forever," Obama told troops at the Commander in Chief
ball. "Tonight, we celebrate. Tomorrow, the work begins. ...
Together, I am confident we will write the next great chapter in