By Mary Bolling Blackiston, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Three-time champion G.R.E.S. Unidos da Tijuca will be the sixth and final school to perform at this year’s Carnival competition, on Monday, March 3rd in the Sambódromo between 2:25 AM and 3:50 AM. The school, which, as the name suggests originates from Tijuca, secured the championship in 1936, 2010 and 2012, and last year came in third place.

G.R.E.S. Unidos da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
G.R.E.S. Unidos da Tijuca at last year’s Carnival, photo by Patricia Santos/Riotur.

The school’s enredo (theme) of this year, “Acelera, Tijuca!” is a theme centering around the concept of speed, paying tribute to the celebrated Brazilian auto race driver, Ayrton Senna. According to the samba school, “The Unidos da Tijuca has created a fantastic route with striking moments of great races that consecrated the fastest competitors of all time.”

The performance will recognize the fastest animals, the pioneering technology of today’s world and the speed of the human race, along with sports that require great speed.

Their carnavalesco (Carnival designer) Paulo Barros, who has been at Unidos da Tijuca since 2004, is responsible for the school’s spectacular costumes and design. The current rainha da bateria (queen of drums) is actress and model, Juliana Alves.

While the school has had their ups-and-downs, the past few decades have witnessed a major turn-around for Unidos da Tijuca. Founded in 1931, they are the third oldest samba school in all of Brazil, and have avoided demotion from the Grupo Especial (Special Group) since 1998.

In 1959, Unidos da Tijuca dropped to the second group; then, starting in 1970, the school looked for new people to help increase its prestige, instigating a period of reform. That year, carnavalesco (carnival designer) Paulo Cesar Cardoso joined the team and introduced more modern and nationalist storylines; carnavalesco Renato Lage took over in 1979, designing incredible scenery and combining both the traditional and the modern.

G.R.E.S. Unidos da Tijuca at the 2013 Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
G.R.E.S. Unidos da Tijuca at the 2013 Carnival, photo by Marco Antonio Cavalcanti/Riotur.

As a result of their efforts, in 1980 the school made its way back into the Grupo Especial after having spent twenty-two years in the second group. However, the hard times were still not over for Unidos da Tijuca, and the school was once again downgraded to the second group in 1985 and 1987.

1998 was the last time the school was demoted; in 1999, it went back to the first group with the samba enredo “O dono ta terra” (“the owner of the land”), where the school glorified the Brazilian Indians and their legends.

Starting in 2004, Paulo Barros became the carnavalesco and Unidos da Tijuca started to really put itself on the map, garnering attention from both the public and the press. Barros obtained championships for the school in both 2010 and 2012.

It remains to be seen if 2014 will bring another championship to Unidos da Tijuca. For those who cannot handle the anticipation, practices provide a preview of what is to come, and rehearsals are taking place every Saturday starting at 10PM, in the quadra (rehearsal room) on Rua Francisco Bicalho, 47, Leopoldina.

For more information, be sure to check the school’s website.

G.R.E.S. Unidos da Tijuca
Rua Francisco Bicalho, 47
TEL: (21) 2263-9679


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