By Bruno De Nicola, Senior Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Beija-Flor (which translates to “flower kisser”), the humming bird who’s wings beat to the samba swing, prepares to fly high for Carnival 2010, wishing to carry home to Nilopolis another Sambodrome Champion title.
Over the past ten years the ‘gremio’ from the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, with five Champion titles since the year 2000, has surely proven to be the best samba school of the new millennium.
Everybody recognizes Beija-Flor when it enters the Sapocai Catwalk: the incredibly big and sumptuous floats, the astonishing costumes and obviously Neguinho’s voice, the most popular of recent Sambodrome nights – all these spectacular elements came to be a trade-mark of the entertaining universe of the samba school carnival. When Beija-Flor parades along the Sambodrome even the jury stands up in excitement.
Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival contest is similar to a military triumph parade after a great battle: armies of over 4.000 people dance their way through a roaring crowd, passing in front o a very special section of the samba stadium where four judges sit at their desks and observe the parade.
What may seem very pleasant to many is actually a tough job for the competition’s jury, who carefully judge each school’s show according to ten specific parameters. They have to decide which costumes are the most beautiful and which schools have the most harmonious flow on the catwalk. In order to be a member of the jury one has to be an expert in music, visual arts, dancing and most of all, Carnival traditions.
On the day after Mardi Gras the four judges officially give out their grades in a formal ceremony that the people of Rio de Janeiro religiously follow on the TV, on the radio, or possibly at the Sambodrome.
Lately for many samba fans it has become a routine to hear that Beija-Flor scores the best of all. The suburban samba school has won the competition eleven times, earning the tricampeão title (three championships in a row) not once, but twice. If it wasn’t for Salgueiro, Beija-flor would have reached a tri-campeão title for the third time in 2009.
Beja-Flor started to compete in the samba major league in 1954. However, the best period for the school began with its institutional revolution in 1974. The relatively young G.R.E.S. since then set a series of miles-stones in samba history. Certainly the most representative of all is Neguinho da Beija-Flor, the most popular Sapocai samba singer ever.
Neguinho is undoubtedly a Sambodrome icon. The singer is so familiar with the samba stadium that he even decided to celebrate his last wedding there, right before singing for the 2009 parade. When in July 2008 doctors diagnosed Neguinho’s intestinal cancer the whole city of Rio de Janeiro felt the threat of loosing one of its most important samba interpreters. Luckily the health condition has improved, the singer in a recent interview said that “samba has the power to heal everything”.
Beija-Flor school rehearsals are on Friday nights, and represent a great chance to listen to Neguinho sing, and follow the progress leading up to 2010 Carnival. For further information about location and time-tables please access www.beija-flor.com.br.