Rio Carnival for Beginners
Celebrate Carnival in Rio and have an unforgettable experience
Of all the carnivals, the Rio Carnival is without doubt, the real deal. This is the time when Cariocas are at their best, and why won’t they be when Rio is known as the Carnival Capital of the World. The fact that most people call it the greatest show on earth means there has to be something about it. The four-day celebration begins on Saturday and ends on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent. There is distinctly a vibrant, licentious air in Rio during the Carnival, with many even referring to it in fun as a sort of ‘carioca madness’ that is seemingly contagious. To find out if this is the party for you ask anyone in Rio who has celebrated the Carnival. Many will say this is a once in a lifetime experience and should not be missed.
How it all started
There are many theories as to the origin of the Carnival with stories of it being a pagan celebration in ancient Rome. Carnival balls became popular in Rio in the nineteenth century with legendary balls held at the Copacabana Palace Hotel and the Municipal Theater. The inevitable influence of Afro-Brazilian culture in the form of the samba heralded the beginning of the Samba Parade in the 1930s. It is the ethnic melting pot of Rio that makes this festival unlike any in the world. The combination of the cultural diversity and Brazilian swing rhythm is what makes the Carnival in Rio so unique.
Samba Schools and the Sambadrome
The center of attraction is, of course, the Sambadrome in downtown Rio, where the Samba Parade has been held since 1984. As tourists begin to arrive, the city virtually comes to a halt for all four days leading up to Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. While the Sambadrome may be the focus of the Carnival, the focal point is undoubtedly the samba schools and their vivacious women samba dancers, who are a quintessential part of the Carnival.
Porta Bandeira – The Crowd Favorite
Women are at the head of the parade of each samba school. They have the job of conquering not only the spectators’ hearts, which is not too difficult, but those of the judges too. The Porta bandeira, the flag bearer of the samba school, in an intricate sequin and feather costume is the first to enter the samba strip as the crowds stand and cheer as she passes by performing the most elaborate samba steps. Accompanying the Porta Bandeira is her protector the Mestre Sala. Inspired by the nobility of the eighteenth century, the couple is adorned with very elaborate costumes. His job is to guide and watch over her as she dances along the parade route. Originally, he would guard her armed with a knife so other samba schools could not distract her and cause her to lose points. The Porta Bandeira must dance and interact with the Mestre Sala as well as the audience. She cannot allow the flag she carries to touch her body or wind around the flagpole. To do so would result in a loss of points for her troupe.
Then come the floats with beautiful women sensually dancing the samba in the tiniest of costumes, accompanied on either side of the floats by ‘alas’ or sections of the samba school. Each section has a different type of costume, all of them breathtaking to say the least.
Four Nights of Competition
Each samba school has 80 minutes to parade down the strip at the Sambadrome. The Carnival kicks off with the opening ceremony on Friday where King Momo is crowned by Rio’s mayor. In the evening a children’s parade sets the tone for the next four days of revelry combined with an intense show of dance, theater, arts and music. On Saturday, members of the Access Group strut their stuff in the hopes of joining the major league players. Sunday and Monday are reserved for the 12 best samba schools vying for the championship spot where six of the finest march on each day.
Glorious Themes and Samba Schools
The schools of samba are a musical genre symbolizing Brazil. At the Sambadrome each school plays out its own story with a common theme ranging from politics to arts and sports. What everyone looks forward to apart from the dancers is each team’s unique song, creative costumes, and choreography. Each samba school tries to be more creative than its competitor. From levitation to a flying astronaut, the Sambadrome is always full of surprises. And each year the schools seem more and more creative as rich imagination give way to show stopping flights of fancy.
A Ticket to Entertainment
All roads lead to the Sambadrome on Carnival nights. It is advisable to take the subway or a taxi to reach the stadium. Admission is around $ 200 for the grand stand, with seating arrangements priced anywhere between $200’s to $1,000. However, it is even more fun joining the samba parade. To be able to participate in a samba school parade go to one of the tour agencies that specializes in the Carnival. For example, Rio.com offers elaborate costumes that are made for the samba schools’ Carnival show. Simply purchase a parade ticket and a costume and show up on time at the Sambadrome and you will be able to be an active Carnival participant. The costumes will even be delivered right to your hotel room.
* Prices are subject to change
A Magic Ball Night At Rio Carnival
If you are a reveler that is looking for a glamorous night during the Carnival in Rio, you can’t miss the Magic Ball at the chic Copa.