At Last! Obama Dances Into History at 10 Balls

Ending inauguration on a high note, Obamas celebrate at star-studded galas.

January 20, 2009, 9:02 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2009— -- After a long day of standing on ceremony, President Barack Obama danced his way into history, concluding today's inauguration celebrations by attending 10 official balls that brought together Washington powerbrokers, Hollywood celebrities and the regular people who helped elect the first black president.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama planned to attend 10 official balls this evening. The Obamas made their first appearance at the Neighborhood Ball, which offered affordable tickets to local residents and was broadcast on ABC.

Despite its populist tone, the Neighborhood Ball had one of the most star-studded lineups of the evening, including Beyonce Knowles, who performed the Etta James classic "At Last" as the Obamas shared their first dance as president and first lady.

The president wore white-tie and his wife was dazzling in a white one-shoulder gown embellished with floral designs and silver beads designed by Jason Wu as they danced a slow two-step.

"First of all, how good looking is my wife?" Obama asked the crowd when first introduced by Denzel Washington and "Hail to the Chief" was playing.

"I want to thank all of you, not merely for helping me get elected, but I want to thank each and every one of you and all the people watching tonight for what you do to make this country better," he said.

Beyonce's husband Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Shakira, Sting, Faith Hill, Mary J. Blige, Maroon 5, Stevie Wonder and also performed at the ball.

Obama called the Neighborhood Ball one of the two most important events of the evening, along with the Commander in Chief Ball, which celebrates the armed forces.

Some 300 wounded soldiers, including Sgt. John Rice, who was injured in an IED blast in Iraq, attended the event, which Jon Bon Jovi headlined.

Rice told ABC News he was "excited to be going to one of the major balls, [and] actually getting to see the president. Being a part of history. I'm really excited about that."

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will also attend a ball for Biden's home state of Delaware and five regional balls.

Obamas Dance Through the Inaugural Ball Circuit

Obama will also attend the Home State Ball for Illinois and Hawaii, where Jack Johnson and Common were performing, and the Youth Ball, at which Kanye West, Kid Rock and Fall Out Boy will perform and which will be broadcast on MTV.

Though the president will not make an appearance at the ball put on by the Creative Coalition, many Hollywood stars turned out there, including ardent Obama supporters Anne Hathaway, Alfre Woodard and Susan Sarandon.

"America has fulfilled my expectations, my hopes, my little-girl dreams of doing the right thing," said Lynn Whitfield, an African American actress who volunteered for Obama's campaign. "I cried today, I cried yesterday, I cried on the way. To see all these soldiers everywhere protecting a man of color, to make sure he's safe, to make sure every hair on his head is well taken care of -- that was amazing."

For actress Woodard, today's inauguration was "the exclamation point on a long sentence we've been writing for the last two years."

Along the blue carpet leading to the ball, Woodard, who recently starred in "The Family that Preys" said, "Barack has been inspiring us with his words, with his actions, inspiring us to act in accordance with who we say we aspire to be, and we kept our heads down just going door to door, neighborhood to neighborhood, in towns and cities all throught the country.

"It was a day of real neighborhood and community," she said. "I felt like it was a very healing day."

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