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By Bruno De Nicola, Senior Reporter

Samba beauty from the União da Ilha do Governador Samba School, photo by www.ilhados.com/Creative Commons Licence
Samba beauty from the União da Ilha do Governador Samba School, photo by www.ilhados.com/Creative Commons License.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Great responsibility lies with União da Ilha, the Samba School from the Ilha do Governador who will open the 2010 carnival Sambodrome contest on February 14th and who have already begun street rehearsals for all their fans.

The next street rehearsal is scheduled for December 12th when the whole school will be parading, though without floats, on the Avenida do Galeão, the avenue that leads to Rio’s international airport. For anyone who cannot wait until Carnival proper it promises to be a great sneak preview of what is in store.

The blue, red and white ‘gremio’, or school, may not be one of the more well known in the Cidade Maravilhosa; founded in 1953, it didn’t enter the ‘special group’ – the carnival contest major league – until 1974, where it remained until 2002 when it dropped back to the minor league.

But for almost thirty years the suburban samba school made itself known and loved for putting on cheerful, simple and inexpensive parades. Today it is considered to be one of the most pleasing and happy ‘gremios’ of Rio de Janeiro, with its trade mark of fun and simplicity.

União da Ilha’s best result ever was in 1980, when it came second in the Sambodrome contest with a parade led by the ‘enredo’ (theme) that probably inspired the school’s current image: “Bom, bonito e barato” which means “Good, pretty and cheap”, a typical expression in Brazil used when one refers to a decent bargain.

Great pressure lies on União da Ilhas shoulders next year, as the school rose back from the minor league in 2009 and as such will be opening the competition in 2010. Cariocas usually believe that parading first or last in the contest is a great handicap: beginners have the heavy burden of warming up the Sambodrome while closers, who usually perform at 6AM, struggle to keep the audience’s attention high.

This year’s ‘enredo’ ensures the fans a great battle from União da Ilha. The samba school is building a fine show under the theme: “Donquixote de La Mancha, o cavaleiro dos sonhos impossíveis” (Donquixote de La Mancha, the knight who fought for impossible dreams). The parade will tell the famous tale of the windmill warrior, along with other stories of impossible dreams.

União da Ilha will open the 2010 Sambodrome contest, photo by Luciano Guelfi, Creative Commons Licence/Flickr
União da Ilha will open the 2010 Sambodrome contest, photo by Luciano Guelfi/Flickr Creative Commons License.

The Spanish theme is causing a pretty unusual phenomenon in itself, with União da Ilha seeking Hispanic foreigners to take part in the Sambodrome competition. The samba school sent out calls to all Latin American consulates in Rio de Janeiro and has set up a special partnership with the Cervantes Institute, the Spanish consulate’s cultural office, which will partly finance the gremio’s parade.

União da Ilha holds its school rehearsals on Sunday afternoons, starting from 6:30PM at its facility on Avenida Galeão, close to the international airport. The gremio’s quadra (dance hall) is one of the biggest samba-halls of the country and though it usually hosts great shows, The Rio Times strongly recommends not to miss the next outdoor street rehearsal on December 12th.

For further information about the União da Ilha do Governador please access their website.

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