By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The long anticipated parade of Last year’s Carnival champions, G.R.E.S Beija-Flor will take place in a matter of weeks at Rio’s famous Sambódromo. Currently ranked the highest over all the Rio samba schools, Beija-Flor will be parading on Sunday, February 19th at 02:25 AM.
Meaning ‘humming bird’, Beija-Flor has achieved its notable success thanks to its supreme management and creative team which includes a staggering five Carnival designers (the usual number per school is one), along with its steadfast willpower and thirst for victory.
The school boasts seven victories over the last fourteen years, beginning in 1998 then in the years 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2011.
One theory behind the school’s continued success is that it is not afraid to focus on controversial issues such as religion in its Carnival Enredos (Themes), and this year is no exception.
Beija-Flor’s 2012 theme, titled “São Luís – O Poema Encantado do Maranhão” meaning “Sao Luis – Maranhão’s bewitched poem”, centres around Sao Luis, the Capital city of the state of Maranhão, located on the island of Uapon Açu.
The island has endured a tempestuous history, founded by the French it was later occupied by the Dutch until finally being taken over by the Portuguese. It is this colorful past and amalgamation of cultures that Beija-Flor hope to portray.
Amongst its many famous supporters such as retired Brazilian President Lula, is Grammy-award winning Brazilian singer and composer Roberto Carlos who achieved international acclaim in the 1980’s. Consequently, the school’s wining theme of 2011 paid tribute to this beloved musician, titled “Roberto Carlos: A Simplicidade de um Rei” meaning “Roberto Carlos: The simplicity of a King”.
Beija-Flor was founded on Christmas day in 1948 in a suburb called Nilopolis, yet its history is considered to be comprised in two parts. That which took place before and after the involvement of infamous Carnival producer Joãozinho Trinta in 1976.
Under Trinta’s artistic direction the school flourished and its parades, whether victorious or not, always left a lasting impression on the audience.
After Trinta’s exit in 1992 Beija-Flor encountered a few problems through failing to find a satisfactory replacement for the producer and for the first time in a long while, they were unable to achieve victory until 1998, following the installment of a Carnival Committee.
With little time to spare the school rehearsals are becoming intense. One person however who is not fazed is Rainha da Bateria (Queen of the drums) Raissa Oliveira.
The 21 year old journalism student and member of the Nilopolis community has spent her childhood dancing Samba with Beija-Flor, beginning her career at just eight years old as part of the dance troop, and later as Queen when she was twelve and won the spot in a competition.
This Carnival will mark her tenth year representing the school as Rainha da Bateria, an honor which she hopes will continue long after. Speaking to O Globo’s Carnival station G1, she explained “There’s nothing better than celebrating ten years ahead of the drums.”
The school’s star is looking forward to representing Maranhão, the focus of Beija-Flor’s theme, stating “They wanted to participate in the samba-plot. They’re really excited about [it]. Maranhão is a state rich in culture and beauty, I’m sure they’ll be well portrayed on the Avenue.”
In the meantime however, catch their Sambódromo dress rehearsal for free on Sunday, February 12th. Alternatively, visit Beija-Flor’s website for details about upcoming rehearsals at their Quadra (hall).