It would be nice to be able to say Utah Republicans danced the night away at the glittering Kennedy Center Inaugural Ball for President George Bush.

But a truthful newsman would have to report that there was little room to dance or even move at that or any of the eight other ball locations.Not that the sites lacked glamour. In addition to the sparkling Kennedy Center, balls were held at the Air and Space Museum, newly refurbished Union Station, the National Building Museum, a Civil War era hall, and five hotels. But there were, as always, far more celebrants than floor space.

Utah was assigned to the Kennedy Center, along with Republicans from California, New Mexico, Nevada, Hawaii, Colorado, and Arizona. As far as this reporter was able to tell, only a half-dozen Utahns attended, and the only state official was Republican Rep. Howard Nielson, who, with his wife, Julia, arrived early in order to be on hand when the president spoke.

They need not have hurried. Though the ball began at 8 p.m. and rumors flew around the hall all night of Bush's imminent arrival, it was after 11 p.m. before he popped in for a five-minute hello. Meanwhile, avid Republicans stood 40-deep around the platform, squeezed so tightly together they could hardly breathe, waiting for George.

Though beautiful as a center for the performing arts, with three theaters along a narrow lobby, as a ballroom it was a bust. It was virtually impossible to move, much less dance, and the five orchestras were almost impossible to hear.

The happy crowd, though, treated it as a once in a lifetime experience rather than an inconvenience.

The rest of the Utah delegation here generally passed up the festivities. Gov. Norm Bangerter and Sen. Orrin Hatch both have been recovering from knee surgery in recent days and did not appear, nor did Sen. Jake Garn, who flew home to Salt Lake City immediately after the swearing-in ceremony.

Neil Bush, the President's son, tried to keep the crowd occupied with tales of the first Bush Family dinner in the White House, and the sleeping arrangement for children and grandchildren scattered through three floors of the mansion. Actors Charlton Heston and Chuck Norris were masters of ceremonies.

Utah was represented on the Ball Host Committee by Mr. and Mrs. J. Lynn Dougan, of Salt Lake City. Distinguished visitors in the program included Utah inaugural chairman DeLonne Anderson, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Akerlow, Fred Finlinson, Nolan Karris, Craig Moody and inaugural committee executive director Steve Studdert and his wife.