By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Born out of the suburbs of Niterói, across the bay from Rio, G.R.E.S Porto da Pedra was created as a by-product of a modest football club and formed by the local residents of the São Gonçalo region. This year they will be the fifth school to parade at Rio 2012 Carnival on Sunday, February 19th, hoping to capture the success that has so far eluded them in the Grupo Especial (Special Group).
Established in 1975, the samba school’s journey into the Special Group has not been easy and, as yet, the school has failed to take the championship title.
Nevertheless, with just eleven short weeks until the big show at the fantastic Sambódromo, Porto da Pedra has been working especially hard in order to break the pattern of the last ten years, during which they have progressed no further than seventh place in the judging.
Porto da Pedra’s Enredo (Theme) for 2012 is “Da Seiva Materna ao Equilíbrio da Vida”, meaning “From Maternal Sap to the Balance of Life”. The parade will aim to convey the importance of dairy products as part of a healthy, nutritional lifestyle.
The school will examine the history of one such dairy product, yoghurt, which has existed since 6,000 B.C. and has been consumed throughout history by various nations including the Ancient Greeks, and the Egyptians.
Despite its relatively low ranking in the Special Group, Porto da Pedra had enjoyed a long running success in their regional Carnival which, in 1993, resulted in an invitation to perform in the Rio de Janeiro Carnival as part of the Access Group. Soon after, following a rapid victory, the club entered the Special Group for the first time in 1995.
Although the last ten years have not been particularly successful for Porto da Pedra, it does seem that the school has experienced its fair share of bad luck. On three occasions it has encountered technical problems with its parade props, the worst of which occurred in 2008 when one of the carnival floats caught fire. While no one was injured, the blow caused a huge panic amongst the crowd and performers, therefore affecting their overall score.
The schools emblem is a roaring tiger holding a red and white Porto da Pedra sash in its mouth. The symbol was suggested by club patron Jorge Luis Guinâncio and remains one of the fiercest and most recognizable of the carnival school symbols.
Reclaiming her 2011 title is Rainha de Bateria (Queen of the Drums) Ellen Roche, a Brazilian Actress and Model renowned for her role as Valerie in the soap opera “Astro”.
Speaking to O Globo news network G1, it is clear that the Actress takes her role very seriously, affirming “I think [being] Queen is not [just about] getting there on time and showing up, I think it’s much more than that. A Queen is directly connected to the community. It is a very strong image, not only at the time of Carnival.”
When asked about her upcoming performance however, Roche remained secretive, explaining “There’s always something different and I am preparing a few surprises. I cannot tell for now, surprises are surprises.”
To learn more about the school and how to attend their practice rehearsals or join their parade at Carnival, visit their website.