By Fiona Hurrell, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Another incredible Carnival at the Sambódromo in Rio drew to a close last Saturday (February 16th) with the samba schools Champions’ Parade. Crowds turned out in full force to see new champion G.R.E.S. Unidos de Vila Isabel make their victory parade, as the finale of the 2013 six highest-ranking schools performed.
Grande Rio opened the night with their impressive performance which examined the oil industry in Rio and hinted at its desire for the city to retain the royalties; A controversial plot since this is an argument long since carried on in Brazil. The schools president Edson Alexandre extended his heartfelt thanks to the school’s members and fans from the neighborhood stating, “I thank all the residents of Duque de Caxias for the spectacle that the community has provided.”
Salgueiro, the school hailing from Tijuca, was led by Rainha da Bateria (queen of the drums) Viviane Araújo performing their theme Fame that featured dancers dressed as Marilyn Monroe and Amy Winehouse. While parading, performers made a touching tribute to the victims of the Santa Maria nightclub fire in Rio Grande do Sul.
Imperatriz Leopoldinense paraded third although without the presence of singer Gaby Amarantos who had performed during their initial parade. Their 2013 theme had earned them fourth place, just missing out on a top three ranking; however an honor for the school nonetheless.
Unidos da Tijuca, last years reigning champion may have dropped two places but it still managed to retain a position as one of the top three schools with its 2013 theme that concentrated on the mythical God Thor. Sadly a small fire in one of the floats early on in the parade caused the school to loose points, as did gaps in the procession and other minor float issues.
Beija-Flor, 2013’s runner up had moved up a place since last year where it finished third but had just missed out on regaining the title which it last held in 2011. The school’s plot, which celebrated horses throughout history, was, as always, well performed yet points were lost due to a float breaking down at the beginning of the parade.
Vila Isabel finally closed Carnival 2013 to a mass of screaming fans who had waited patiently until the end to see the winner make its last parade. Despite the late hour, dancers were as energetic as ever and elated by their school’s victory. Performing their theme which celebrated Brazil’s rich agriculture, marks the school’s first win in seven years. Rainha da Bateria Sabrina Sato, a famous television presenter, summed up the mood of the crowds when she shouted, “today is their day” as she led the drums down the Sapucaí.
Carnival 2013 proved to be bittersweet for Inocentes de Belford Roxo, who, after winning a place in the Special Group following Carnival 2012, were demoted back to the Access Group after scoring the lowest points. Yet while Carnival 2014 may seem a long way away, for the samba school organizers, preparation will begin almost immediately for when they next reunite at the Sambódromo.