The highlight of Carnival is undoubtedly the Carnival Parade called the Samba Parade or Samba Schools Parade, a totally unique event in the world!
The Samba Parade is the review of a fierce competition between the samba schools. The judges and spectators watch the principal parades in the Sambodromo, which was especially built for this event.
The Samba Parade in is something everybody should experience at least once in their lives. The event is broadcast live to several countries. Watching on TV is comfortable but not any close to the fun that is being there. Definitely mingle with the crowds and watch the Brazilians. For the best and full blown experience, you can even march with a samba school.
The Samba Parade is very distinct from all other street parades held at some other places in the world. It started as street festivities with groups of people parading through the streets playing music and dancing. The Carnival parades developed into something special, a competition between the samba schools.
The preparation for the Samba Parade starts months in advance, as each samba school mobilizes thousands of supporters who will create the various parts of the school’s display.
First, the theme of the year is chosen. Then the school’s samba song of the year is selected through competition, while the school’s Carnival Designer creates the costumes and the floats. When ready, the sketches move into production. By December the rehearsals begin.
Each year the schools chooses a different theme for the Samba Parade. It can be a celebration of a particular period, or, famous figures of Brazilian history. It may highlight a special event or speak of anything that might move the spirit and imagination; like a special animal, or one of the elements; water or fire, etc. The school has to illustrate the chosen theme through all its work:
- The samba tunes, which are especially written for that year;
- The richly decorated floats and costumes of their 3,000 to 5,000 parading members designed by the school’s Carnival Designer (the so called Carnavalesco).
The costumes are extremely imaginative, colorful, elaborate and detailed. They are truly original, designed and made from scratch each year. They have mirrors, feathers, metallic cloth, silk and sometimes gems or coins. These costumes take months to make. The work starts roughly 8 months in advance.
Each samba school has its own distinctive colors (of its flag) and costume style. The color scheme is reflected in many parts of their parade.
The biggest and most elaborate costumes are worn by the main floatees (destaques), members chosen with honor by the samba schools to wear these special costumes.
You may think of the whole event as a tropical opera or rather like several operas happening on one night. It is beautiful to watch and the experience for themselves is so intense that the memories last for a lifetime.
Rio de Janeiro
Information from: Rio-Carnival website