All about one of the most celebrated holidays with close to 1 million people in the festivities.
The Carnival is held 40 days before Easter. Rio Carnival 2016 will be celebrated from February 5th to February 9th. With its roots in the paganistic festival Saturnalia, this over the top extravaganza attracts more than 1 million people from around the world. Hundreds of balls, street parties and parades are held throughout the city during the Carnival.
Modern day Samba parades are filled with the latest technology and materials. Back in 1641 when the first Carnival was celebrated, the locals held a few masquerade balls as they did in Europe. With the arrival of the Portuguese, formal balls gave way to street fights where water, mud and food were thrown at spectators. These brawls gradually turned into parades. With time the parades became formal and organized.
The aristocracy of Rio, including the Emperor, would dress in elaborate and expensive costumes and parade through the streets. The formal masquerade balls eventually returned to the Carnival celebration and by the late 1890s marching bands and decorated floats were included in the parades. The early parades were organized by Cordoes, groups of locals, who arranged the time and location of the parades as well as the music and floats. Today these street parties are arranged by groups called Blocos. During the Rio Carnival 2016 approximately 300 parties will be arranged by these groups.
When spectators attend the parades during Rio Carnival 2016, they will hear and see the Samba influence. Prior to the importation of African slaves to Brazil Samba did not exist. African slaves brought their music, dance, and drumbeats with them. When slavery was abolished the African style was slowly introduced to the Carnival. This new rhythmic beat was quickly adapted by the Carnival planners and for Rio Carnival 2016 Samba is a major component of the celebration.
As Samba popularity grew so did the demand to learn this new form of music and dance. As a result the first Samba school, Mangueira was formed in 1928. As years passed additional schools were added to the Samba roster. The Samba schools formed a healthy competition trying to attract students. Carnival was the perfect time to strut their stuff and contests amongst the schools developed. During Rio Carnival 2016 many of these old parent Samba schools will be competing including Grande Rio, Beija Flor, Salgueiro, Unidos da Tijuca and Mocidade. As the Samba parades are so elaborate it takes all year to plan for the parade held during the Carnival. School members begin their plotting immediately after the previous year’s Carnival is over.
Prior to 1984 there was no organized site to hold the Samba competitions. In 1984 that changed when the Sambadrome was built. This large amphitheater has seating on both sides for spectators to watch the parades. In order to put on a successful parade during the Rio Carnival 2016, each Samba school must first come up with a theme. A song is then composed to represent or tell the story of the chosen theme. As each show can be 80 minutes long choreographers work out several routines to go with the theme song.
Many spectacular floats are built by the architects, engineers and carpenters in the Samba School. While the floats are being built dress designers fashion costumes that also go with the chosen theme. These costumes are outrageously spectacular and skimpy. Modesty has no home at the Sambadrome. As each school parades along the route 40 judges score the performances, with the highest score winning the championship title.
Before Rio Carnival 2016 can begin, a royalty must be in attendance. The mayor of Rio de Janeiro selects the King of the Carnival. King Momo, as he is called, announces the beginning of the Carnival. Parties, balls and concerts start to spring up throughout the city.
On Friday and Saturday of Carnival the Access or Gold Group competes at the Sambadrome. Finally the new schools get a chance to strut their stuff with their own Samba parade competition. The most talented Samba schools, called the Special Group, compete on Sunday and Monday. Finally the newer schools or smaller and less experienced groups hold their competition at the Sambadrome on Tuesday. They too hope to advance up the rank to the Special Group. The Children's Parade take place at Sambodromo on tuesday. Just like their parents these youngsters develop a theme, write a song and choreograph their own dances. The top 6 competitors return to the Sambadrome for an exhibition so more spectators have a chance to see their routines.
If visiting Rio Carnival 2016 you should attend at least one of the 300 balls that will be held. The hottest ticket in town belongs to the Copacabana Palace Hotel and their extravagant ball. International and local celebrities and wealthy entrepreneurs all attend this ball. It is known for is luxury and its posh style. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the down and dirty Gay Ball held at the Rio Scala. Anything goes at this ball including glam drag queens dressed in outrageous costumes. This is not just a ball for gays, everyone is invited.
For an awesome time during Rio Carnival 2016 be sure to get to a street party organized by one of the Blocos. These groups of neighbors get together yearly to plan their local party. They organize a parade route and arrange for floats playing loud Samba music. Some of the largest block parties can have over 1 million revelers. These parties are not restricted to the week of Carnival. Instead they are held throughout the month.
For those of you wanting to visit Rio Carnival 2016, it is imperative to plan in advance. Try to use a travel agency that has experience in Carnival bookings as they will know the best and most economical hotels to reserve. In addition the travel agent will have access to Sambadrome tickets and invitations to balls. Should you choose to participate in one of the Sambadrome parades, they will set you up with a costume and instructions.