By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Despite the rainy weather, six schools from the Special Group filled Rio’s Sambódromo with floats, elaborate costumes and the vibrant sounds of samba as they paraded during the first night of the 2015 Carnival championship competition on Sunday, February 15th.
Samba school Unidos do Viradouro started the night. Originating from Niterói, a municipality located across the Guanabara Bay from Rio de Janeiro, the school won the second league Série A competition in 2014, moving them up to the Special Group this year.
As the rain poured on Sunday night, the school presented the enredo (theme) “Nas Veias do Brasil, É a Viradouro em um Dia de Graça!” (In Brasil´s veins it is Viradouro in a day of grace).
With attitudes appearing unaffected by the weather the school made their way, singing and dancing down the avenue as they presented their theme which celebrated African heritage in Brazil. Luckily for some school members and participants, one ala (wing) used umbrellas as part of their procession. However, that is where their luck ended, as an arm of one of the large statues mounted on the side of one of their floats broke before their parade.
Samba school Estação Primeira de Mangueira, often referred to simply as Mangueira paraded next. The school is one of the most popular in the city and on Sunday night, with their colors verde and rosa (green and pink) proudly displayed throughout their parade, they celebrated the female members of the school and paid tribute to important women throughout history during their procession.
Large figures of well known women and women from popular fiction were prominently featured on the school’s floats and depicted through costumes worn by the school’s members. The bateria (drum section) was lively and all the members appeared to joyously belt out this year’s chosen samba-enredo (samba theme song).
Next the samba school Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel paraded. Best known simply as “Mocidade” or “Mocidade Independente,” the school’s comissão de frente (front commission or vanguard group) opened this year’s parade with a bang of sorts by grouping together to form a meteor. The meteor then broke apart with several members literally catching on fire. Those fiery members then ran back into the lead float behind them.
On a large screen placed between two even larger figures on that float, the school’s enredo (theme), “Se o mundo fosse acabar, me diz o que você faria se só lhe restasse um dia?” (If the world were to end, tell me what would you do if there were only one day left?), scrolled throughout the parade in both Portuguese and English.
The sections that followed highlighted end-of-the-world prophecies including those made by the Hindu and Mayan cultures and Nostradamus. What could have been dreary, was in practice creative and colorful.
Later, sections of the parade asked the spectators, through signs on floats and banners, what they would you do if they have one day left to live. One section asked if they would walk naked in the rain and featured a float with building whose doors opened with dozens of naked float riders coming out to dance. The float had its own sprinklers, but the sky helped out the school as well.
Another section asked if they would go to the beach with school members holding up panels to form waves, while another asked if they would go shopping with a float complete with rotating racks of clothes. One section asked if they would pick more intimate encounters and featured a float with beds and various groupings of people living out their last moments under the sheets.
Parading fourth as the rain turned to a drizzle, samba school Unidos de Vila Isabel followed with their procession featuring brightly colored costumes and multiple animatronic floats.
This year with a theme paying homage to famous Brazilian singer-songwriter, guitarist and mandolinist, Noel Rosa and great composers, Vila Isabela’s parade opened with the comissão de frente using a float with two trampolines designed to look like keyboards. Several school members bounced and did tricks, landing in clear boxes above as two more members sat and pretended to play the giant keys.
The floats that followed featured large figures with moving parts and limbs. Toward the end of the procession a large pirate ship float poured out smoke and featured an octopus perched on top with its brightly colored moving tentacles sprawling down and through the portholes of the ship warping around and holding singing and dancing school members aloft.
Next, entering the Sambódromo fifth on Sunday night were nine-time carnival champions Acadêmicos do Salgueiro.
Presenting a theme that celebrated the cuisine of the state of Minas Gerais the bateria members dressed in white chef’s jackets, hats and aprons with red accents, and red-and-white checked pants. The red-and-white checked pattern motif carried through other sections of the parade. Floats carried members dancing on larger-than-life silverware.
Finally, samba school Grande Rio paraded last during in the early hours of the morning. The rain had stopped and the school which originates from Duque de Caxias, presented their theme which dealt with playing cards and card games.
Filled with “Alice in Wonderland” references, jewels and jesters, the parade was a fantastic way to end the first night of competition.
On Monday, February 16th the remaining six schools from the Special Group will parade at the Sambódromo beginning at 9:30 PM.