IN the end, the inaugural balls went off a little more smoothly than the oath of office. U.S. President Barack Obama, who fretted beforehand about the calibre of his dancing, avoided stepping on his wifeâ€™s toes, but he kept running into trouble with the train of her very long white gown through the eveningâ€™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 otherâ€™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.
â€œMichelle keeps knocking my dancing in public in ways that have hurt my feelings, so I probably should practice just â€˜cause sheâ€™ll tease me mercilessly if I step on her toes,â€ said Obama.
He managed to avoid the toes 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 â€œAt Lastâ€ sung by Beyonce at the Neighbourhood Inaugural Ball, the first lady kept 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.
â€œWe got the idea for the Neighbourhood Ball because we are neighbourhood people, and I cut my teeth doing neighborhood work,â€ Obama said. â€œThis campaign was organised neighborhood by neighborhood.â€
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: â€œBeso, Beso, Beso.â€ 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 â€” which got shorter as the night went on â€” Obama spoke of the election and of the promises he made during the campaign, including improving the ailing economy.
â€œYou achieved what nobody believed was possible,â€ he said at the Southern regional ball. â€œIf we can win an election that way then we can put people to work that way.â€
At the Youth Ball, Obama thanked the people who were the driving force behind his campaign, particularly in its early stages.
â€œWhen you look at the history of this campaign that started out as an improbable journey, when nobody gave us a chance ... (it) was energised by young people all across America,â€ he said, to chants of his campaign slogan â€˜Yes we canâ€™.
â€œAs we gather here in Washington, we are sobered,â€ he said at the Commander in Chiefâ€™s ball. â€œWe are fighting two wars, we are facing dangerous threats. Tonight we celebrate, but tomorrow the work begins.â€