By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It’s just thirteen weeks until Carnival, the biggest, most anticipated event on the Carioca calendar, where samba dance parades, music and street parties go on all day, and, in most cases, all night. With the countdown clearly underway for the Carnival schools of Rio de Janeiro, rehearsals are in full swing and preparations are being made in anticipation of their big performances at the Sambódromo on Sunday, February 19th and Monday, February 20th.
G.R.E.S Acadêmicos do Grande Rio is one such school that will be practicing extra hard after a difficult year in 2011.
Established in 1988, Grande Rio is the most recent of the Special Group, consisting of thirteen of the most prominent samba schools in Rio, and also one of the most successful.
They represent Duque de Caxias, a satellite town of Rio de Janeiro and the third most populated area in Rio state. The school also has a station at the Monte Líbano Club on the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, an area in Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone).
In the last ten years of Carnival (with the exception of 2011), Grande Rio has come extremely close to winning. Having been crowned Vice champions in 2006, 2007 and 2010, the school has always been considered a serious contender in the competition.
However, on February 7th, 2011, disaster struck as a fire consumed Grande Rio’s premises at the Cidade do Samba (Samba City) and destroyed much of the interior including the parade floats and props. Grande Rio was the worst affected out of three schools which included Portela and União da Ilha. Estimates reported that the fire incurred costs of up to R$10 million in damages, causing a major setback.
Sadly, there was little time to make repairs and despite managing to put a performance together and parade, they were unable to officially compete for the 2011 title which was later won by Beija-Flor.
Consequently, 2012 will see the school return in fighting form, using the tragedy as inspiration for what promises to be a knock-out performance focusing on overcoming difficulties. The Enredo (theme) for this year is “Eu acredito em você! E você?,” meaning, “I believe in you! And you?,” words which perfectly sum up the positive attitude adopted by the contestants in light of past issues.
In October, Mary Melilo, winner of Brazilian Big Brother 2011, was chosen as Muse for Grande Rio. Her duties will include performing the club song in the 2012 parade.
Melilo spoke of her excitement to Caixa local news network, Caixas digital, explaining “It’s an incredible thrill. I’m already anticipating how it will be [at Carnival]. I will give it all that I can to do justice to this special school.”
Company President Jaydar Soares has also enlisted the help of notable costume designer Marcio Carvalho. Carvalho is quoted by Caixas digital as saying, “I noted that the presentation is important in the world of samba. It is an interesting universe.”
The school has a huge following, including a number of well known celebrities such as Brazilian actress Ellen Rocche, musician Arlindo Cruz and politician Helinho de Oliveira, who will no doubt be showing their support over the coming months and throughout Carnival itself.
Grande Rio will be the final school to parade in the Grupo Especial (Special Group) line-up on Monday February 20th. To find out more about G.R.E.S Acadêmicos do Grande Rio visit their website (in Portuguese).