By Vânia Maciel, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This past Sunday and Monday evenings the contest for Rio’s best Samba school was held in the Sambódromo. The twelve top schools of the Grupo Especial paraded filling the Sapucaí with enchantment and awe. The winners will be announced Wednesday at 3PM, but after two amazing nights, there is plenty to talk about until then.
The parading has evolved into a multi-faceted performance, traditional Carnival aspects are mixed with elements from nouveau-cirque and special effects, and the overall parading experience is more complex and entertaining for all. Porto da Pedra for example had a component dressed as a ghost hanging from a inflated balloon anchored to one of its floats.
As usual the competition was fierce but in good spirits, and schools did not cease to surprise audience and jurors with innovations as they paraded. The ones affected by the big fire in the Cidade do Samba last month also put on a great display despite not competing.
For example, one of the worst affected União da Ilha, surprised onlookers with a full-on sophisticated, light and colorful parade on par with any other. As the school progressed it was hard to believe they had lost all costumes in the disaster, and recreated it all in less than a month.
Unidos da Tijuca, one of the favorites for the 2011 title, paraded the theme Essa noite levarei sua alma! (Tonight I’ll take your soul) about fear in movies. After winning last year, they faced high expectations and pulled it off.
An unusual Comissão de frente (Front Committee) performed a simple but effective trick with components dressed as scary characters who seemingly took their heads off, and played with it, then put them back on. These were followed by an immense and beautiful float representing Charon’s boat, which carries souls from the world of the living to the world of the dead.
Perhaps second favorite is Beija-Flor which paraded the life and work of Roberto Carlos, one of Brazil’s most loved song writers and singers, known as The King. The theme established a good emotional rapport with the Brazilian audience, who were moved and cheered when the singer showed up in the last float.
As no Carnival is completely free of mix-ups, Salgueiro, which would have been a favorite, had its parade jeopardized by a delay of ten minutes caused by a broken down float.
The overtime caused a crucial loss of points and probably costing the opportunity landing the school among the best six despite the beautiful display. Some carnival commentators though still believe the school may have a slim chance, counting of the points will start tomorrow.
Carnival may be almost officially over but the party will continue well until the next weekend with the Champions parade next Saturday on the Sapucaí where the six best Samba schools in contest will parade again. Tickets for the event are being sold in Bradesco Bank branches and are going fast with 90 percent already sold.
Please note tickets for the different sectors of the Sambódromo are being sold at different branches, prices and addresses are shown on LIESA’s table.