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Royal couple shimmy the night away

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge became true South Pacific royalty when they donned colourful skirts and danced the night away at a gathering of island chiefs.

Until now they have been members of Tuvalu's royal family in name only but after their display at an inter-island singing celebration they can lay claim to being true born.

William and Kate shimmied, swayed their hips and moved their arms as they joined six island communities of the South Pacific nation at a fateles, or local dance, where different groups try to out sing and dance each other in a friendly rivalry.

The Duchess looked the more natural and got to her feet time after time to join the performers while William left it till later in the evening to try out his moves - and at one stage both had colourful skirts tied around them to make them really feel the part.

A tradition associated with the event is for dignitaries to spray perfume or scent on dancers they like as a mark of respect and gratitude and armed with a bottle of Paul Smith London for Men both royals liberally sprayed the performers.

The night saw them beaming, laughing and joking with each other and at its end William summed it up as "good, really good - an amazing evening" when asked by Tapugao Falefou, a senior government official who helped organise the royal visit, if he had enjoyed himself.

The rousing event capped a busy but exciting day for the royals who were welcomed with a greeting not seen since the Queen last set foot on Funafuti, Tuvalu's main island, in 1982.

Carried shoulder high by more than 25 men in leaf skirts, William and Kate were processed from their charter jet sat side by side on ornate chairs in a 'carriage' with a thatched roof of leaves.

Looking a little bemused they appeared to be enjoying the ride that slowly made its way to the airport terminal - a tiny single storey building with a corrugated iron roof.

Their way was led by around 40 singing women dressed in vibrant purple dresses covered in cream flowers that the island's government had specially made for many of the islanders to mark the occasion.

William and Kate's plane had landed on the tiny strip at Funafuti which doubles as a playground for local children and sports pitch for adults who want to play football or the local game of te ano - similar to volleyball.

Thousands of residents from the island and Tuvalu's other outcrops and atolls lined the runway which receives only a few planes a week, and waved and cheered the procession.

Two days of holiday have been called to mark the brief royal visit which ends tomorrow, but in the laidback tradition of "island time" the previous two Fridays have seen little work done as people spruced up buildings and roads for the arrival of the royals.

The procession stopped in front of a guard of honour and nearby were island chiefs, dressed in colourful costumes, who were waiting to greet the royals along with Tuvalu's governor general, Sir Iakoba Taeia Italeli, and prime minister Willy Telavi.

A choir of schoolchildren gave a beautiful rendition of the British national anthem as the guard of honour stood to attention. The Duchess wore a sunflower yellow dress featuring broderie anglaise by an undisclosed maker, and her favourite wedges.

After the couple chatted with the chiefs, a bare-chested islander wearing a leaf skirt blew a conch shell three times to signal the start of the fatele - a traditional welcoming ceremony - and the chiefs and politicians filed into the Vaiaku Falekaupule, a hall where community gatherings are held.

After taking their seats William and Kate had a necklace of tiny sea shells and wooden beads, called a te pakasoa, placed around their necks and were crowned with a garland of frangipani flowers.

Sat at their feet was a man armed with a white handkerchief whose job it was to swat away flies from two coconuts, freshly picked and with straws sticking out of them, which were refreshment.

People began to crowd around the edge of the windowless building and a stray dog wandered past one entrance a few metres from the royal couple oblivious to the historic visit taking place.

After a performance by a group of singers and dancers who created an electric atmosphere, with singing that was as deafening as it was rousing, the Duke rose to his feet and described their island nation as the highlight of the couple's Diamond Jubilee tour.

William tried his hand at speaking Tuvaluan and when he said "talofa" - hello - the guests replied in the language.

He went on to tell them: "Tuvalu and the people's of these islands hold a very special place in the Queen's heart. Her Majesty well remembers the warmth of the traditional Tuvaluan welcome she and the Duke of Edinburgh received on the occasion of her last visit to her people in 1982."

Speaking about the memorable greeting the Queen and Philip received when they were carried aloft in carriages from the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Duke said: "Indeed the whole world remembers the reception you gave Her Majesty back then it is one of the iconic images of her reign.

"It is precisely because of the Queen's deep love for this place and the stories we have heard from her about its great natural beauty, its rich culture and the friendliness and character of its people that Catherine and I have been so looking forward to our visit.

"It is the highlight of the Diamond Jubilee tour on her behalf, we are very delighted to be here. Your wonderful welcome has to be the most original and quite literally uplifting ever. We will both remember it and the joy and happiness of what has followed for the rest of our lives."

William ended with more Tuvaluan "fakafetai larsi" - thank you very much.

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