Finally, we’re talking about the carnival, that riot of colours, sparkling costumes and… hot, hot samba rhythm. Held every year before Lent, the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the long-awaited festival by people worldwide. The date of the very first festival in Rio goes back to 1723.
The typical parade (copied thereafter in other countries) is a saraband of revelers, floats and brightly coloured decorations from the over 200 samba schools located in Rio, which to make the show original and keep it livelier, are divided into 5 leagues or divisions. But, we all know that Brazil has a tradition for samba and nothing is at random. A samba school is therefore composed of people who live in the same region (most of whom are neighbours) who want to attend the carnival together and obviously have a geographical and regional common background. They are the official representatives of their region at the festivities, sharing their ritual with the cheerful crowd and the other samba schools.
The tradition requires that every school follows with their parade entry. The lead is given to the so-called ‘Comissão de Frente’ (or ‘Front Commission’ in English), which is as the name suggests, a group of people representing the school who appear first. Comprising of 10-15 people, the Comissão de Frente does the honours of introducing the school and sets the mood and the style of the presentation. They are usually the choreographers of the school’s parade and will have put together dances in shiny, feathery costumes that usually tell a short story. Following the leaders, come the ‘abre-alas’ (or ‘Opening Wing’), which forms the first float of the samba school. This group is then followed by the Maestre-sala and Porta-Bandeira (Masther of Ceremonies and Flag Bearer), having 1 to 4 pairs, one of which is active and 4 reserves. Their mission is to lead the dancers comprising of former guard veterans and the ‘ala das baianas’ and (the Wing of the Baianas – women dressed in Bahiantraditional costumes), with the bateria at the rear, and sometimes a brass and guitar section.
Stepping a little bit back in history, Cordão da Bola Preta distinguishes itself as the oldest street block of the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
Elegance and extravagance are the name of the game in Rio every year. The parade takes place in the huge Sambadrome and at night, when the joyous crowds decide to leave the streets, the Copacabana Palace opens its gates to host the after-parade balls. Street festivals are also common during this time, and music and dancing enliven the streets.
Long story short, if you’re planning a trip to Brazil, make sure you don’t miss the Carnaval!