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The dancing, taking place on a huge stage just outside town, is Lili’s favourite part of the festival. Each night, hundreds participate in exuberant Polynesian routines, with ukuleles jangling and drums pounding long into the night. Lili and Celine perform elegant and poised solo dances while judges mark their performances. These are added to the teams’ overall scores, which reflect every side of Easter Island’s culture – from Loti’s helter-skelter Haka Pei to the craftsmanship of a single headdress.

The dark clouds that have hung over Hanga Roa all day finally give up their rain as Lili and Celine take to the stage on Tapati’s final night. The head judge slowly reads out the scores as spectators run for cover. In the skirmish, the results barely register: Lili has won! She raises her arms to the skies and kicks off her heels to perform a celebratory dance with the team that helped her win. There is just time to return to the float that bore her through the parade to pose on her throne. A forest of arms rises up through the deluge, clutching digital cameras to capture Lili in her moment of glory. And with a final wave to the soaked crowd gathered around her, the new queen of Easter Island slides off her throne and disappears into the night, to the party that surely awaits.

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The article ‘Easter Island’s greatest festival’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.

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