Obamas Set a New Vibe in Motion
White House dinners may be getting a new groove -- and it was as simple as putting in a dance floor in the East Room.
At Sunday's black-tie dinner honoring the nation's governors, the White House broke with decades of stiff tradition and invited people to dance along to the evening's entertainment: '70s rhythm and blues group Earth Wind & Fire. Instead of neat rows of chairs to watch the performance, there was a dance floor in front of the stage and six small tables scattered throughout the room, forcing guests to mingle, talk ... and boogie down.
"We were told by the social secretary the governors never dance," percussionist Ralph Johnson told our colleague Richard Prince. "They danced tonight. It was a good thing!"
Of course, it helped that the first couple are big music fans. Michelle Obama was posing for pictures during the sound check before dinner when the president walked onto the stage and met the musicians. "He is a big fan, and we're on his iPod -- we're very excited about that," Johnson said.
Later that night, there were no boring after-dinner speeches, just music. The Marine Corps Band combo played a short set, then Earth Wind & Fire took the stage and broke into "Boogie Wonderland" -- which got the president, first lady and a number of govs moving. "The whole dance floor was full," Social Secretary Desirée Rogers told us yesterday. "There was a conga line, but I missed that."
The point, she said, was to create an atmosphere that allowed guests to really mix and mingle; White House senior staffers were invited to join the after-party to make it easier to casually chat with guests. The Obamas stayed for most of the band's 50-minute set; the party broke up about 11 p.m. (Late for a White House formal dinner!)
Is this a model for future fancy soirees? Said Rogers: "We'll continue to look for ways for people to say, 'Wow!' and to have a good time."
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