By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Portela samba school will be the penultimate performance in the Grupo Especial (Special Group) parade competition this year at the Sambódromo. The school is scheduled to perform at 2:20 AM on the night of Monday, February 27th, with plans this year to honor the importance of water within their theme.
Portela is one of the oldest samba schools, formed in 1923 in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone), and also one of the most notorious with no less than 21 titles. Despite being in the Grupo Especial competition for decades, the last title won by the school was vice-champion in 1995.
While the school has climbed steadily up through the rankings over the last few years – finishing in 5th place in 2015 and in 3rd place last year – it has also been faced with challenges this year, with a change in choreographer part way through the year and the death of President Marcos Falcon.
However, Portela is determined to climb further up the ranks this year with an enredo (theme or plot) called ‘Quem nunca sentiu o corpo arrepiar ao ver esse rio passa’ (‘Who never felt a shiver through their body when they saw the river pass’).
Although the school has not been forthcoming with details of the story it will tell, Carnavalesco (Carnival designer) Paulo Barros has said that the school will used the theme of water to connect myths, stories and legends with samba and poetry as a tribute to the importance of rivers and water for humanity.
Portela’s enredo will begin by showing rivers as the starting point for villages and early civilizations, and later how rivers became essential to trade products and transport people, creating the beginning of cultural exchanges. The school will also include figures such as Iara, Boiúna, Cobra-Grande and gods like Oxum.
Among the famous rivers that will receive homage from the school are the African Nile, as well as the beginning of the Amazon, with the Solimões meeting the Rio Negro. The school’s enredo will also remember the Mariana ecological disaster, which flooded the Rio Verde with mud in Minas Gerais in 2015.
Speaking to local publication G1, Barros said that the school’s commitment to overcoming obstacles will be represented by their front commission, a smaller group of dancers performing elaborate routines as they lead the school through the Sambódromo.
“It is the piracema, a natural phenomenon of fish that swim against the current to reproduce,” said Barros, speaking about the front commission choreography. “It is a demonstration of strength against adversity.”
Portela will also be taking advantage of their theme this year to make sure their identity is clear in the Sambódromo, using plenty of their signature white and blue colours. Their parade competition entry will also be lead by a float carrying the school’s symbol, a falcon.
Be sure to stay with The Rio Times to learn more about the other competing schools, winners and additional events during this year’s Carnival.