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Rio Carnival

By Haider Ali

Posted: 4th December 2012 16:51

The first carnival to be held in Rio de Janeiro date back to 1723. Held before Lent annually, the Rio carnival is unrivalled by any other in the world due to the sheer numbers it manages to draw out. An estimated two million revellers participate in the dance tinged festival as it commences on the streets thriving during the night.

When are the next dates?

The next Rio carnival is expected to take place on February 9th, 2013, and the following in 2014 on March 1st. This is because it takes place on a Saturday enabling as many people to participate given that people will have days off work.

Samba Dancing

The carnival is usually filled with floats and adornments from many samba schools from across the city. Some two hundred schools from across the Rio region are divided into five groups based on skill and a competition takes place to find a winner form among the group.  

Each samba school must pick out a theme, backed by music and costumes that create a consistency with the dance to help increase their chances of winning the competition. They can create a number of floats and costumes and upon average can enter four thousand revellers per school.

There are numerous parts of the samba dance starting with the "comissão de frente", which is made up of twelve to fifteen people. This starts as an introduction and sets the theme for the entire samba act. The "abre-alas" is the first float that follows accompanied by the “porta-bandeira” who is a lady that carries the important role of samba school flag bearer. Then the “mestre-sala,” comes with his queen alongside the “destaques” the people who populate the float. The more pertinent “destaques” dance and sing alongside the main float in their heavy costumes as long as the float is on the runaway wooing the crowd and the judges.

Street Carnival

The street carnival is so much more than just samba dancing and floats though. The Sambadrome is one aspect of it; celebrations take place on the beach and Copacabana Palace where tourists can participate in street dancing. Whereas the floats and samba competitions are more organised, the street carnival is far more inclusive and improvised. Street dancers from “Bande de Ipanama,” which formed in 1965 tend to steal the show with their Samba manoeuvres that are derived from the African style they originated from.

The samba remains the most popular form of street dancing at the carnivals. But it is not unrivalled with the polka, lundu and maxixe also familiar styles at the carnival. Like Samba they are danced in tandem to percussion instruments. Throw into the mix tourists form around the world and you create quite a melting pot on the streets of Rio.

Despite two million people attending the carnival, there was no report of crimes, often unheard of at such highly charged festivals. It has a real family feel to it, despite Brazil being notorious for gang culture. It is a time for people to absorb the colour, dance their stresses away and have fun. So for those tourists fearing the worst, they need not worry as they are guaranteed a great time.


With the largest street dance found in Cinelandia Square, perhaps you will be one of the ones attending next year. There is nothing quite like it in the world and exhilaration is the only word one can use to describe the magnificent Rio Carnival.

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