By Michela DellaMonica, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — Often among the highest ranked in the Grupo Especial (Special Group) division, G.R.E.S. Acadêmicos do Grande Rio is fiercely gearing up for this year’s competition with a new theme and carnavalesco or Carnival designer, Fabio Ricardo. Established in 1988 and best known simply as Grande Rio, they will enter the Sambódromo on Sunday, March 2nd as the second samba school to parade.
This year’s theme commemorates Maricá, “Green eyes on the sea, on the way: Marica.” The municipality of Maricá is situated on the coast of Rio de Janeiro state about twenty kilometers away from Niterói, and approximately 60 kilometers (40 miles) north from the city of Rio.
One of the younger and more successful schools to enter the Grupo Especial, Grande Rio has neared overall victory within the last five years, and finishing as a finalist in last year’s competition with carnavalesco Roger Szaniecki with the theme, “I love Rio and I will Fight: Black and Gold (Oil) without dispute … Against Injustice in Defense of Rio.”
In 2004, Szaniecki took over the position of carnavalesco and led the school to third place finishes twice and then to two back-to-back vice-championships (second place) in 2006 and 2007, the closest the school has come to championship thus far in their short history.
However, on February 7th, 2011, disaster struck as a fire consumed Grande Rio’s premises at the Cidade do Samba (Samba City) and destroyed much of the interior including the parade floats and props. Grande Rio was the worst affected out of three schools along with Portela and União da Ilha. Estimates reported that the fire incurred costs of up to R$10 million in damages, causing a major setback.
The colors of the school flag are red, green and white, and they are known for addressing controversial issues, as well as standing up for their beliefs. In 2001 the Grande Rio samba dancers held a protest parade as an attempt to force judges to see the error of their ways and to be fairer in judging the performances of fellow samba schools. This was an unprecedented act, making Grande Rio somewhat infamous in the Carnival culture.
Actress Christiane Torloni will lead this year’s parade as Rainha de Bateria (Queen of Drums) along the samba songs by the director of harmonia, Thiago Monteiro.
Headquartered on Rua Almirante Barroso, Grande Rio is a representative of Rio’s satellite city of Duque de Caxias, the third most populated area in Rio state. The school also has a warehouse in Samba City (Cidade do Samba) where they build and store their floats each year.
The school has a huge following, including a number of celebrities such as Brazilian actress Ellen Rocche, musician Arlindo Cruz and politician Helinho de Oliveira, who will no doubt be showing their support over the coming months and throughout Carnival itself. They hold their normal weekly rehearsals on Tuesdays at 9PM, see the website for more details.
G.R.E.S. Acadêmicos do Grande Rio
Rehearsals: Tuesdays 9PM
Rua Wallace Soares, 5 and 6, Centro – Duque de Caxias, Rio de Janeiro
Tel: (21) 2671-3585