By Fiona Hurrell, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Renowned for its innovative and playful Carnival Enredos (Themes), G.R.E.S. União da Ilha do Governador (known as União da Ilha) is the fourth school to parade at the Sambódromo on Sunday, February 10th. Having fought its way in to the Grupo Especial (Special Group) some years ago, this unpretentious school continues to attract a wide audience of Brazilians and foreigners alike.

União da Ilha do Governador during Carnival 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
União da Ilha do Governador during Carnival 2012, photo by AF Rodrigues/Riotur.

Set up in 1953, União da Ilha was inaugurated by a group of friends from Ilha do Governador (Governors Island) in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone) who felt their home deserved its own samba school.

From then on, the school began its steady climb through the ranks, eventually joining the Grupo Accesso (Access Group) in 1974. The following year, União da Ilha’s hard work paid off and it finally earned a place in the coveted Special Group amongst some of the most prestigious schools such as Portela, Mangueira and Beija Flor.

Now the school has become one of the most likeable in the Special Group thanks to its joyful nature and clever public relations. In Carnival 2012, União da Ilha attracted attention, especially from British audiences, with its theme “From London to Rio”.

The theme focused on the significant passing of the Olympic torch between the two cities and also depicted quirky British culture including a procession of Buckingham palace guards and characters from famed children’s book Alice in Wonderland.

A procession of Buckingham Palace guards featured in União da Ilha's Carnival parade of 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
A procession of Buckingham Palace guards featured in União da Ilha’s Carnival parade of 2012, photo by Rafael Moraes/Riotur.

Despite their best efforts however, União da Ilha is yet to be crowned Carnival champion, although their luck could change in 2013 with their new theme “Vinícius no Plural. Paixão, Poesia e Carnaval” (Vinícius plural. Passion, Poetry and Carnival) which pays tribute to famous Brazilian poet, Vinícius de Moraes who died in 1980.

Born in Rio’s Zona Sul (South Zone), the neighborhood of Gávea, Moraes spent most of his life in Rio developing his many talents which included Poetry, bossa nova, and play-writing. He even helped to pen the classic international hit song ‘Garota de Ipanema’ (Girl from Ipanema) which has been replicated by a number of prominent artists today.

As a much loved public figure, Moraes shaped a lot of Brazil’s artistic culture and became known throughout Europe. It is, therefore, no surprise that União da Ilha should wish to celebrate this internationally successful icon, who’s love of Rio was evident through much of his work.

It has been announced that Bruna Bruno will continue her role as Rainha da Bateria (Queen of the Drums) for the school in 2013. Samba means a great deal to the young star, who originally won a competition to feature as Rainha for the school. Her fitness regime is said to be specifically designed to prepare the young dancer for Carnival, incorporating spinning classes and aerobics with a balanced diet.

No stranger to setbacks, União da Ilha suffered the consequences of a fire just weeks before Carnival 2011, which resulted in the loss of much of the schools’ parade costumes and props. Since then, however, the school has been keen to rebuild and reassert itself within the ranking of the Special Group with high hopes of a long awaited victory in 2013.

To find out more about the school, who will be holding rehearsal dates in its Quadra (Hall) on Tuesdays from 8PM and Saturdays from 10PM, visit the website.


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