By Ciara Long, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On Saturday, February 25th, Rio’s Sambódromo will see performances from the second group of Série A samba schools, otherwise known as the Second League. As with the previous night, performances are due to start at 10PM with the final performance at 3:30 AM.
Performing schools are competing not just against other samba schools performing on the same night, but also with the first group of Série A schools that perform on Carnival’s opening night.
Acadêmicos da Rocinha will begin the night with a performance at 10PM, and will be followed by Acadêmicos do Cubango, Inocentes do Belford Roxo, Imperio Serrano, Unidos de Padre Miguel, Renascer de Jacarepagua and Unidos do Porto da Pedra.
Formed when three carnival blocos in the Rocinha neighborhood, Barra, came together, Acadêmicos da Rocinha will compete in the Série A competition this year after taking part in the Access Group competition in 2016. The samba school first competed in Rio’s Carnival parades in 1989 and its flag bears a butterfly as its crest and is blue, white and green.
Acadêmicos da Rocinha’s 2017 theme pays homage to legendary carnival dancer and choreographer Viriato Ferreira. In an entry called, ‘No Saçarico da Marquês, tem mais um freguês: Viriato Ferreira’ (In the dance of the sambódromo, there is one more customer: Viriato Ferreira), will honor Ferreira’s past choreography for schools including Salgueiro, Beija-Flor, Portela and Imperatriz Leopoldinense.
Originally from Niterói, Acadêmicos do Cubango formed in 1960 and spent 26 years competing in carnival parades across Guanabara bay, before joining Rio de Janeiro’s Parade competitions in 1986. The school celebrated its 57th birthday in December, and has spent since 2011 in Série A of Rio’s parade competitions.
Brazilian singer and composer João Nogueira, most celebrated for his samba music, is the inspiration for Acadêmicos do Cubango’s 2017 parade entry. The school will present a piece entitled, ‘Versando Nogueira nos cem anos do ritmo é nó na madeira’ (Nogueira verses in one hundred years of rhythm is a knot in the wood).
Hailing from the Baixada Fluminense, samba school Inocentes do Belford Roxo formed in 1993 and entered its first parade competition in 1994 and has climbed steadily over the years to reach Série A by 2000. The school’s blue, white and red flag shows a dove with two hearts below.
In 2017, Inocentes do Belford Roxo’s parade entry will tell the stories of charismatic villains from comics, legends, books, movies and TV. Among the characters featured in ‘Vilões – the verso do inverso’ (Villains – the other side’s version) will be fictional Brazilian anti-hero Macunaíma.
Viewed as one of Rio’s most traditional samba schools, Imperio Serrano first formed in 1947 in the Serrinha community, Madureira. Its white and green flag has a golden crown and the school has been crowned Carnival champion nine times.
Mato Grosso poet Manoel de Barros serves as Imperio Serrano’s inspiration this year. The school’s piece will pay homage to the writer, considered one of Brazil’s most important, in a piece entitled ‘Meu quintal é maior do que o mundo’ (My backyard is bigger than the world).
Unidos de Padre Miguel formed in 1957 in Vila Vintém, in the neighbourhood of Padre Miguel. With a red-and-white flag showing an interracial handshake, the school has been the runner-up in the Série A competition for the last two years running.
This year, Unidos de Padre Miguel’s conservation-themed entry is called ‘Ossain – o poder da cura’ (Ossain – the power of healing). Inspired by the Afrobrazilian orixá Ossain, the school will present a piece on the importance of the preserving the forests as well as the healing power of medicinal herbs.
Hailing from the Zona Oeste (West Zone) neighborhood of Tanque, samba school Renascer de Jacarepagua formed in 1992 but has roots in a local carnival bloco that started in the late 1950s. Despite its short history, the samba school reached Série A within its first decade of competing. The school’s symbol is a dove flying past the sun, which sits on a red and white flag.
Renascer de Jacarepagua will honor two important black historical figures in Brazil’s history with this year’s entry, ‘A papel e o mar’ (The paper and the sea). Beginning with a note in a bottle thrown into the sea, the samba school will tell the stories of Carolina Maria de Jesus, one of the country’s first black women writers, and leader of the Chibata Revolt, the ‘Black Admiral’ João Cândido.
A roaring tiger is the symbol for the final school in the Série A competition this year, Unidos do Porto da Pedra. The school, originally from São Gonçalo, is 38 years old and has spent the majority of the last twenty years competing in the Special Group and Série A.
Unidos do Porto da Pedra’s theme presents a fitting finish to the Série A competition, with an entry called ‘Ó abre-alas que as marchinhas vão passar’ (Open the wings so that the marching bands will pass). The school will pay tribute to past and present carnival celebrations, including the samba musicians playing during performances.
On the two nights following the Série A competition, Sunday, February 26th and Monday, February 27th, the Sambódromo will see schools in the Special Group compete. The winning schools from all leagues of the competition will be revealed on Ash Wednesday, after Carnival celebrations finish, and will determine each school’s league for the next year’s competition.