By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – At long last the eagerly anticipated Carnival parades of 2012 at Rio’s Sambódromo happened with spectacular performances by the Special Group schools Sunday, February 19th and Monday, February 20th. Opening the Parade on Sunday was newly qualified Renascer de Jacarepaguá, last year’s Access Group champion.
Not to be intimidated by the higher category opponents, Renasecer paid tribute to Brazilian artist Romero Britto and dazzled crowds with an impressive sequence of high quality, colorful floats which included a moving trampoline show.
Rita Mota was part of Ala 27 for Renascer de Jacarepaguá, and describes: “It was incredible, I was so happy and excited to see everyone clapping and cheering. I have never experienced being in a parade before, just watching.”
She goes on to say, “It’s been an honor, I have watched them since I was a little girl and now I am actually on the avenue with them. Words can’t describe it.”
Following Renascer was Portela, honoring the state of Bahia and the region’s famous musician, Clara Nunes. Having been damaged by a fire last year, the school was keen to make a comeback and their parade song by Gilsinho clearly remains the most popular with the crowds, even after ten years.
Imperatriz, as always, produced a thoroughly impressive performance. The brightly colored floats depicted scenes of ordinary life, which feature strongly in the works of famous writer Jorge Amado. Parading with the school was Heather Silvi Frinell who spoke of both her excitement and the exhausting aspect of the parade. “The most exciting part was as we entered the Sambodromo. The energy was amazing! After about 5-10 minutes though you realize how long it takes to get down the parade route!”
In tribute to yet another famous Brazilian artist, Candido Portinari, Mocidade, the school famous for its Samba, displayed a huge lifelike model of the artist which moved in time to the music. Lending his support to the parade was Marcelo Serrado, renowned Brazilian actor who received huge cheers from the audience.
Porto da Pedra performed an interesting theme about the importance of dairy products. The parade made references to different religions and cultures who believe that milk and the source from which it comes presents a link between divinities and a symbol of strength, faith and hope.
Beija-Flor came next amidst huge cheers from the spectators. Renowned for showcasing the most spectacular costumes and props, the school narrated the colourful, and often oppressive history of São Luís. As ever, the parade had a few controversial elements such as float depicting semi naked African slaves being whipped by affluently dressed men.
The final School of the night was Vila Isabel. The school had a difficult opponent to beat after the rousing and technically faultless display by Beija-Flor however it rose to the challenge with an enigmatic display, honoring Angolan traditions which awarded it the prestigious Gold Standard award.
Monday’s parades were opened by São Clemente who paid tribute to some of Broadways most famous shows. Vigorous performances from “Cats” and a set of solo violinists in the Bateria, displayed the schools unique creative talents.
União da Ilha followed, performing their Olympic tribute “from London to Rio” amidst a colorful parade which depicted famous British characters such as Alice in Wonderland, complete with an Ala dressed as playing cards, and the swing era of the 1960’s.
Third to perform was Salgueiro, honoring the cultural tradition which is Cord Literature. The school suffered a few technical issues to one of its hugely embellished floats but this did not affect the audience’s response to the parade and, as ever, their bateria was particularly well received. Long term fan Vinicius Marques was there to support his favorite school, saying “Salgueiro were the first school I ever saw rehearse when I was a boy and since then I have supported them. They are fantastic.”
Perhaps Rio’s most popular samba school, Mangueira were up next performing a tribute to famous Carnival bloco Cacique de Ramos. The school had a smooth run, and as always, the colorfully decorated and bejewelled costumes and parade floats were met with huge applause.
Unidos da Tijuca celebrated 100 years of composer Louis Gonzaga. They showcased their individuality with an acrobatic display which set them apart from their competitors. Visually, the floats were incredible, the most memorable depicted white doves contrasting starkly against a black tiered float.
Closing Carnival 2012 was Grande Rio, the school worst affected by the fire in February 2011. It’s comeback performance aptly focused on overcoming obstacles which drew huge support from the spectators. The school portrayed the daily struggles of both ordinary and famous people, including a float dedicated to Nelson Mandela.
The Champion and runners up will be announced on Wednesday February 22nd and will culminate in the Champions parade on Saturday, February 25th, which marks the official end of Carnival 2012.