By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One of the most traditional samba schools, the Grêmio Recreativo Escola de Samba Portela is getting ready to parade down the Sambódromo on the second night of the Special Group parades on February 16th. Portela will be the second group to parade and is scheduled to make their entrance at 10:05 PM.
Portela is not only known as one of the founding partners of Rio’s Carnival and samba competition together with Mangueira and Estácio de Sa, but also the most crowned Rio Carnival champion with 21 titles. They had several winning streaks, such as from 1941 to 1947 and 1957 and 1960. They were never relegated to any inferior league groups.
Yet, Portela has been waiting a long time for a new title, as their last win dates from 1984. They made it to vice-champion in 1995 and were third-placed last year and in 2009, but failed to grab the winning spot for several years now.
This year, they shoot for the 22nd championship with the enredo (theme): “ImaginaRio, 450 janeiros de uma cidade surreal” (ImagineRio, 450 januaries of a surreal city). The school’s Carnavalesco Alexandre Louzada pays homage to their beloved city of Rio de Janeiro and its 450th anniversary with the theme, but looking at it with a twist. The show will depict how a surrealist, such as Salvador Dali, sees and imagines Rio de Janeiro.
“Rio is a city that inspires the arts, music and poetry and influences the daily life of those who visit or live in the city. Everything is surreal here, be it the landscape, the climate or the Carioca way of life. The very joy of the people is surreal. Therefore, with the magic that every Carnival journey allows, in my imagination, I ‘invite’ the great master Salvador Dali to come with me and together with Portela to imagine the city of Rio,” Louzada explained.
Within the spectacle, works of Dali and other surrealist painters will be mixed with scenes from Rio. Sugarloaf Mountain will become a mermaid lying in Guanabara Bay and the Maracanã stadium will transform into a big spaceship, using the technological affinity the school has when constructing their floats.
Portela was officially founded as a Carnival bloco in 1923 in the Oswaldo Cruz neighborhood and later transformed into one of the first samba schools. However, Portela is not only a traditional school, but had a great influence on the way today’s competition takes place.
The school with the blue and white eagle brought several innovations to the samba parades, such as the introduction of alegorias (floats) in 1935 and the first samba enredo (samba theme song) in 1939, as well as a parade entirely dedicated to one theme.
They were also the first group to have a commissão de frente (Front Commission or Vanguard Group) and later to standardize them and make them introduce the theme. As recognition for their influence on Rio’s Carnival, they received the Order of Cultural Merit in 2001.
Portela had also to overcome some sad news in this year’s Carnival preparation as Dona Dodó, their first porta-bandeira (flag carrier) passed away on January 6th. Dona Dodó was 95 years old.
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