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Michelle Obama shakes it up in India with dance moves, big push for girls' education

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Michelle Obama played hopscotch, danced and sang with 33 disadvantaged children from the Indian charity Make a Difference on Saturday at the University of Mumbai.

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By Emily Wax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 8, 2010; 5:56 PM

NEW DELHI - When President Obama and his wife, Michelle, get into an argument, she makes her husband apologize first, the first lady told a group of low-income Indian schoolgirls, causing them to cheer and roar with glee.

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Michelle Obama also told the girls that she likes to exercise, because "women have to stay strong."

While the president spent Sunday fending off skeptical questions about the United States's relationship with Pakistan and Monday defending American policies about Kashmir and the outsourcing of jobs, his wife won India's heart.

The first lady - who grew up poor on the South Side of Chicago and went on to earn degrees from Princeton and Harvard - played hopscotch with words chalked in English on a floor in Mumbai to stress the importance of literacy and learning in a new global economy.

She showed off impressive hip shaking via Bollywood and traditional Koli dancing at a Diwali party. (Her husband was noticeably less smooth when the first couple danced with children in Mumbai on Sunday.)

And she accompanied the group of 15 schoolgirls on a tour of the capital's National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum.

"Dancing Queen rocks India, Michelle wows with moves on & off floor" was a front-page headline in the Times of India on Monday. Obama also was praised on the fashion pages, with scribes oohing and aahing at how her powder-blue dress and sweater matched the blue turban worn by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

There was much speculation about whether she would don a sari at the state dinner Monday night. She didn't, opting instead for a floor-length shimmering silver skirt with a metallic long-sleeved top. Both were designed by Rachel Roy, an Indian American designer.

In his toast at the state dinner, President Obama paid tribute to his wife's talents after listing some of the "things we have learned on this trip."

"And we have learned that no matter how hard I try, Michelle will always be a better dancer than I am," he said.

But the first lady arrived in India with a message that goes beyond dancing. She has made education and women's empowerment the focus of her domestic agenda.

The message is particularly powerful in India, where many rural women struggle to be educated and where there are enormous obstacles even for a baby girl to be born.


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