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Samba time on the streets of Rio

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-02-20

Rio de Janeiro dazzled Sunday night with the city’s top samba schools sending extravagant floats and hundreds of singers, dancers and musicians towards the newly renovated Sambadrome, the "temple of samba".

AFP - Rio's Carnival celebrations reach their peak on Sunday in a riotous frenzy of skin, sweat, sequins and samba music that will culminate in the crowning of a new champion of the annual celebration.

Joyous street parties with soaring beer consumption and a breathtaking kaleidoscope of fantasy floats and sequin-clad women will mark the start of the climax of the annual event late Sunday, as eagerly-waited parades arrive in Rio's renovated Sambadrome -- also known as the "Temple of Samba."

Seven of the city's top samba schools will march allegorical floats and hundreds of lavishly costumed singers, dancers and musicians down a specially designed parade route to the Sambadrome.

Six other schools will do the same on Monday night as part of the hotly contested event to pick the Carnival champion, judged on choreography, music, dancing and creativity.

This racially diverse country of 191 million people has come to a standstill in the pre-Lent bacchanalian Carnival festival, Brazil's most popular holiday.

Preparation for the Sambadrome parades starts months in advance, as each samba school mobilizes thousands of supporters who must create the various parts of the school's display.

Those parades have a special meaning for residents of Rio's impoverished favelas, for whom samba, a dance which African slaves brought to this country, is a passion just like soccer.

Favela residents are often members of a local samba school and are deeply involved with the performance and preparation of costumes.

It turns the spotlight on the amazing artistic talent, creative genius and zest for life found in those predominantly black shantytowns which often lack running water, electricity and a sewage system.

Their spectacular parades will take place in the renovated Sambadrome, originally designed 30 years ago by famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer.

The arena, which reopened last Sunday after a nine-month makeover, now has a 72,500-seat capacity, access ramps for the handicapped and elevators.

Seats at the Sambadrome cost between $50 and several thousand dollars, depending on whether one sits on packed benches in the open or in air-conditioned VIP boxes stocked with champagne.

The Rio Carnival, billed as "the greatest show on Earth", generates 250,000 jobs and revenues of $640 million for hotels, bars and restaurants, according to state estimates.

It is celebrated with equal gusto by other cities and towns, including Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic capital and Latin America's most populous city, as well as Salvador da Bahia, the heart of the rich Afro-Brazilian culture.

As in previous years, Salvador de Bahia, Brazil's third largest city, led the way, with hundreds of thousands of revelers people pouring into the streets late Thursday to dance and party.

The theme for this year's Carnival in Salvador is "The Carnival Country," the title of a 1931 novel by Jorge Amado, in homage to the late Bahian author as the city marks the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Sunday's events at the Sambadrome will be attended by the cream of Brazilian society and its most famous stars, as companies invite luminaries, including foreign celebrities, to their skyboxes overlooking the processions to lure customers to their brands.

Each year, schools choose a different theme for the parades such as famous figures of Brazilian history or one paying tribute to the country's diverse racial and ethnic heritage.

The parading schools are divided into a number of sections and each section has a number of wings of about 100 people wearing the same costume.

On Saturday, more than two million revelers -- many of them favela residents -- flooded central Rio for a mammoth street bash organized by Bola Preta, one of the oldest and most popular Carnival street bands.

Rio officials said they expect more than five million people, including 850,000 tourists, to enjoy the five-day festival which was opened by legendary Carnival King Momo on Friday.

Date created : 2012-02-19


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