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Marian Robinson, mother of First Lady Michelle Obama, joined Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, in the Kennedy Center’s presidential box Tuesday night to celebrate the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 50th anniversary tour.

“She’s smooth,” said Ailey artistic director Judith Jamison of Robinson. “I told her to say hello to the First Lady for me.’”

This story first appeared in the February 5, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Playing to a sold out audience, the dancers wowed the crowd with a soulful tribute to singer Otis Reading. For some, the performance was a chance to remember how much has changed since the company first began.

“Dance is a great way to open people who had been scared — especially women,” said Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who first saw Alvin Ailey dance with his company a year after the assassination of her father, Robert Kennedy. “I was 17, a student at Stone Ridge [a private Catholic women’s school in Bethesda, Md.]. I’d never seen anything like that.” The former Maryland Lieutenant Governor said that while her mother Ethel did sign her up for ballet lessons, “she didn’t make me take ballroom dancing. That same year, a man asked me to dance. I remember he looked at me and said, `You never took dance lessons.’”

Gala honorary co-chairman Michelle Fenty, who lunched with her husband Mayor Adrian Fenty and the Obamas recently at Georgia Brown’s, said she was sure Michelle Obama would take her daughters to see the show before the company hits the road Monday for the rest of its 26-city tour. Among the last minute cancellations for last night’s gala were White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and White House senior aide Valerie Jarrett.

Marian Robinson may have followed through on Jamison’s request. Sources say Michelle Obama and her daughters, who saw the company together in Chicago last summer, are waiting for the weekend to catch the show on a night when the girls don’t have school the next morning.

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