Rio de Janeiro Samba School Parades
This page provides information about the Rio de Janeiro Samba Schools Parade at the Sambadrome, also known as the Carnival Parade.
The highlight of the Rio Carnival is without a doubt the Samba Schools Parade, a totally unique event in the world.
You Samba School Parades is always a fierce competition between the Samba Schools of Rio. Judges and spectators watch parades from the top schools in Sambadrome, which was built especially for this event.
The Rio Samba Schools Parade is very different from all the other street parades held in some other places in the world. It started as a street party with groups of blocks. The Carnival parades in Rio developed into something special: a competition between the samba schools.
The main competition was initially held in the city centre. Until the mid-1980s, bleachers for spectators were simply assembled and dismantled each year on the Avenue. Presidente Vargas, one of the main arteries of Rio de Janeiro. Then the main parade was transferred to the Sambadrome, built especially for this event.
Preparation for the samba parade begins months in advance, each samba school mobilizes thousands of members, usually from the school's host community, creating sectors and wings composing the school. First, the plot of the year is chosen. Then the school's samba is selected through competition, which you can follow for a few months on the school's courts, while the carnival designer creates the costumes and floats. When they are ready, the so-called prototypes go to the production line. In December the technical rehearsals begin. In mid-December, the sambas of plot are engraved and then sold in stores.
The Rio de Janeiro Samba Schools Parade is not a street event where people move chaotically at will, but a highly orchestrated show of massive proportions. Each member has a specific role and parade location according to their fantasy in a special wing, a special section of the samba school in which the parade is a member who will help tell the school's plot on the avenue.
Every year, each school chooses a different theme for the parade. It can be a celebration of a certain period of history, honoring a famous name or famous figures in Brazilian history.
Being able to highlight a special event or talk about anything that can 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 throughout its work:
› The Sambas Enredos, which are specially written for the year of the parade, according to the theme
› All the floats and the costumes of its 3,000 to 5,000 members are richly decorated, disclosing to the public and the judges every detail created by the carnival artist.
Each school's parade is very well designed and organized. They line up in a unique way to present their show. The schools are divided into several sections and each section has a number of wards of around 100 to 200 people wearing the same costume. You will find more details about the role and name of some special sections of the parade on the side of this page.
Between the wings, there are about eight floats, separating the sections. Most of them are pushed by men from the school's community, but some are motorized. The floats can carry special guests, along with some components in dazzling costumes.
The costumes are extremely costumed, colorful, elaborate and detailed. They are truly original, designed and made from scratch each year. They have mirrors, feathers, metallic fabrics, silk, and sometimes jewelry or coins. These costumes take months to make. Work starts about 8 months in advance.
Each samba school has its own distinctive colors (the colors of its flag) and costume style. The ensemble of colors is reflected in many parts of her show.
The more elaborate and larger costumes are used by the main highlights. They are honorably chosen members of the school to wear these special costumes.
Even though full nudity is not officially allowed, floats sometimes feature topless or nearly nude beauties, men and women, wearing only body paint, lots of glitter and a smile.
You can think of the event as a grand opera or rather multiple operas as they take place in one night. It is beautiful to see and the memory of this spectacle will impress you for a lifetime.
How the parade is judged
The Samba Schools Parade is a glorious competition in which points are awarded by judges. As in sports, they offer entertainment while having strict rules.
Schools are judged in 10 categories. There are four judges in each category. Each judge scores on a scale of 7-10 (with fractions), with 10 being the best. Points are counted and announced on Ash Wednesday, right after Carnival. During the parades, the judges are spread out along the samba catwalk and are in booths clearly marked with the word “judges” and the names of the questions.
Who's who in the parade?
“Momo” is the name of the god of mockery in Greek mythology, and according to Carnival tradition, Rei Momo is supposed to be joyful and as big as a house. Legend has it that he was expelled from Olympus to come and settle in Rio, the City of Carnival. Rio Carnival officially begins with the handing over of the city key to King Momo. This is when Rei Momo starts to samba, everything and everyone – sequins, feathers, and all the people around him must also samba with him. It opens all the major Carnival events, including the parades.
The Queen and the Princesses
The Carnival Queen is meticulously chosen for criteria such as her beauty, self-confidence, sociability, ease of expression, friendliness and skill in samba, but above all she must possess the “Carnival Spirit”. The candidates who came in second and third are crowned carnival princesses, a title created recently.
He is the professional responsible for the artistic work and also for designing, producing and directing the school's parade. Sometimes they choose the theme and also develop the school plot. They design all the clothes and floats, choose and supervise the purchase of materials, manage the construction and manufacture of the floats, costumes and accessories. They can earn a lot of money in a special group school. The names of the great carnival artists in Rio de Janeiro are as well known as the great film directors. They have their own style, some because they attribute very futuristic characteristics such as: Salgueiro (baroque), Imperatriz and Mangueira (rococo); or they have a special preference for a specific theme such as Beija-Flor, which prefers to approach themes that are very Brazilian or with African roots.
They are the blocks of a school parade – the school is divided into several of them. A group of 50 to 200 people wearing the same costume and with the same purpose. The costume will illustrate a particular aspect of the school's theme. Each ward has a president who is responsible for costumes (production and sales) and coordination of the parade for all ward members.
And the wing that pulls school. It is usually made up of a group of dancers aged 12-15 with highly choreographed steps introducing the school to the crowd. Their costumes don't always reflect the school's central theme. Originally it was just the tall, strong men counting steps forward, unable to even look back. Recently, the front commission is a show in itself. They became a show about their own choreography with true splendor. Sometimes a small float forms part of this wing, also carrying school symbols, along with some celebrities wearing the most elaborate costumes.
Master Room and Flag Bearer
The name says it all, she is the school's flag bearer. They are like a symbol of the school. Master Sala is there to protect you. He originally had a knife symbolizing and simulating a defense of the school's flag to make sure the other schools wouldn't harm the flag, causing them to lose the competition. Her dance is the most elaborate and elegant of the entire parade. Schools have more than one couple, usually three, but only the first couple is judged.
Wing made up of the ladies of the school. Their costumes are flashy and traditional to the state of Bahia. They have huge wheel skirts and petticoats with tubes inserted, and at times, usually in the choruses, they spin from side to side representing the soul of the samba schools and their African roots. Each School must have at least 80 baianas, or the school loses points (in this case for the Special Group schools). They are women from the community who have been part of the School for many years. This is an absolute tribute, and the samba school crafts their costumes at no cost. They are highly respected and often start a round of applause as they pass. Currently, only women can parade in this wing. Medical assistance throughout the parade is another privilege they have. Another interesting subject is that the lines in this ward are organized by school time. Some schools such as Beija-Flor, Grande Rio and Salgueiro also have some younger women in their wing.
This is the beating heart of the school consisting of 250 to 350 percussionists. It gives energy and life to the entire parade. This is a community wing, so the costumes are paid for by the school. The drum master is the one who chooses who will play in the group through continuous rehearsals, tests, and discipline. Rehearsals begin months before Carnival. Drummers' fantasies are sometimes so big that they make playing instruments difficult. There are microphones above the drums and a sound car with samba handles. Some schools are so traditional that they use the same instruments for decades (such as Mangueira, Portela, Império Serrano). In the 80s, Mocidade brought new instruments to its drums. Inevitably, the other schools (such as Viradouro, Grande Rio, Porto da Pedra and Beija-Flor) began to use other innovations that fully incorporated the new genres (daring to use funk and highly elaborate choreography). And it looks like it worked!
Samba Handle (Singer)
Usually male, he is responsible for singing the school's samba, almost always accompanied by a group of singers. They usually come on top of the sound car right behind the drums or walk along the samba catwalk.
Queen of Drums
She is always a beautiful woman, in charge of introducing the drums to the spectators. She is responsible for motivating and inspiring the battalion of musicians who follow her along the parade.
Composed of the best samba dancers in the school – it parades with a maximum of 50 members. It is very difficult to samba to the rhythm of the samba school and at the same time move along the avenue and its 700 meters. These sambistas are always the main attraction of the school. They are chosen through a competition that takes place each year, and it is certainly a great honor to be among the best.
Each float and each wing has a number of people dedicated to ensuring the parade runs smoothly. They are identified by wearing T-shirts that represent their ward or car. The samba school is punished if it takes too long to parade or if it parades with less time than the minimum parade time. Points are also deducted from schools in the event that empty spaces appear between wards.