Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Carnaval in Rio: Samba School Rehearsals

What so many people do not know is that the big Carnaval parade spectacular in Rio is actually a fierce competition between long-established groups/communities reaching for the grand prize of champion. Samba Schools (so named for their early days of rehearsals in the logical big open space of school soccer fields) compete to be the best in costume, choreography, parade precision, music and theme realization.

This is serious business. For us simple folks who just love the show, we start saving for our tickets for next year’s event the month after this year’s extravaganza is completed. For community members dedicated to participate next year – they double down and save even more each month.

As Carnaval approaches there are weekly rehearsals to help participants practice their choreography and learn to sing the samba as second nature. Most Schools look for opportunities to practice down large boulevards that simulate the Sombadromo parade route. “Harmonia” coaches (precision police) encourage folks to pay close attention to pace, alignment and alegria, all of which will be scored during their Carnaval performance.

So we find ourselves at the Viradouro rehearsal down main street in Niterói.

The vendors assemble way in advance. Lots of people means lots of food and beverage sales. Plus maybe some balloons or costume accents as well. So entrepreneurs claim their spot and set up shop.

Popcorn, balloons, sunglasses, hot dogs, BBQ, beer – you name it. Carnaval is NOT about unfulfilled desires!

We come every Sunday. But today is the last rehearsal before the big parade. Energy is high. Participation is at its peak. Smiles, friendliness, inclusion and a deafening dance-a-thon ensues.

We are DEFINITELY not in Kansas!

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