I had my birthday party at the biggest party on earth!

Tickets are expensive but it’s a once in a lifetime experience. Plus, the opening day of the  Carnevale   exactly falls on my birthday.  

Days before my scheduled flight to Rio de Janeiro a news about an Italian killed in Rio de Janeiro exploded. Safety in Rio was one of my family’s concern and they tried to reason it out with me but I assured them that I will be fine though I am a little bit nervous because it will be my first time in South America.
the Sambadrome
I had seen Carnival festivals in other countries but Rio’s Carnevale is definitely one of the best if not the most grandiose. 

The annual five days parade happens before the Lenten season. First day is on the Friday before Ash Wednesday and runs until Fat Tuesday. The  Saturday after that is the Champion’s parade. 

Unlike the street carnival, this is a  choreograph competition between samba schools. Well they are not really strictly schools as the name implies but rather an association of cariocas, the locals in Rio,  in the same district. The Carnival officially starts when King Momo receives the key of the city. By the way, King Momo is not a royalty. He can be anyone.  At the end of the festivities a Queen will be crowned together  with her two princesses or her runners up.

A samba school comprises  of 3,000 performers or more and they must crossed the 700 meters  Sambadrome runway in exactly 85 minutes or risk losing precious points if their performance is shorter or exceeded the time allowed.
Each participants have their own purpose and are divided into groups which I enumerated below.
  1. Wings  - the divisions of a samba school that comprises 50 to 200 people. They wear the same costume and must show the School’s theme. The President of a wing is responsible for the costumes and coordinations.
  2. Vanguard Commission - 12 to 15 group of dancers that will present the school to the audience.
  3. Flag bearer and her Escort - the Flag bearer is the school’s symbol and her escort is her protector. A school can have 1 to 3 couples but only one will be judged.
  4. Bahian’s Wing - they are the elder woman of the school wearing the Brazilian traditional costume. Total participants must not be below 80 persons.
  5. Drums section - 250 to 350 drummers give energy and life of the parade. 
  6. Samba Singer - a male usually perform the samba  song with backup singers. 
  7. Drummer’s Queen - she looks after the drummers, their inspiration and motivator.
  8. Samba Dancers - the main attraction of the school.
  9. Harmony - they are responsible for the proper flow of the school’s parade especially the themed cars and wings.

for me this was one of the highlights, she may not be able to walk but she had the time of her life in the runway.
The judges  select the best  samba school according to the following categories.
  1. Drum Section - they provide the rhythm all through out the parade
  2. Themed Samba -  the school’s chosen main theme, lyrics and melody must be perfectly blended.
  3. Harmony - song, rhythm and singing must fit with the choreography and dance components of the school. 
  4. Theme - the school chooses what theme they want to represent by showing it  through their wings and floats. 
  5. Evolution - The flow must be spontaneous. There must not be gaps between the parades or the wings.
  6. Accomplishment - it is the overall impact of the performance.
  7. Allegories and Props -  this is where the floats are judge, the artwork, creativity, costumes, performance and visual effects. 
  8. Vanguard Commission - the ward’s choreography, costumes and how they represent their theme
  9. The flag bearer and her escorts - the overall performance of the flag bearer and her escort is an important element of the school. 

In a single day there are six to seven samba schools that will perform. Be ready to endure the spectacle from going to the Sambadrome, finding your seat and watching the performances . Bear in mind that the  show starts at 9 in the evening and usually ends  around 3 AM or until 6AM. You may bring your own food and plastic bottled water. There are food kiosks and bathrooms though.

The first two days,  Friday and Saturday , will be for “ Access groups”  while Sunday and Monday will be for the Special Groups” . Fat Tuesday is the “Winner’s Parade” and the following Saturday will be the “Champion’s parade” wherein the winners from the Access group and Special group will once again perform. Further, Access group winner will join the Special group on the next Carnival. 

 Check out the video and photos below:

Every end of a performance are these "cleaners", I am not sure if they are part of the school.

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