Thursday, July 28, 2016

City of God and Favela Kings

Feathers, drums, whistles, skin - it's Carnival in Rio.  Prior to Lent every year, the "City of God" breaks out into celebration with one of the most famous of Brazilian holidays.  People around the city regularly practice all year for the event, especially in the poorest of neighborhoods in Rio, the favelas, that are interwoven between the rich parts of town.

There are 12 major samba schools and several hundred others throughout the city.  Much like a athletic club or community center, these neighborhood schools practice their dances, build floats, practice music, design costumes, and spend the whole year developing a parade for the Sambadrome stadium.  How can we tell the story of Rio without Carnival?

I had to use this tortoise one, since I have a pet tortoise of my own, Orpheus.  Noah Oppenheim, the world's most brilliant 5 year old, is taking great care of him while I am in Rio!
There are actually very specific guidelines toward creating a Carnival parade in this great artistic competition.  Each part of the parade is graded and tells a story.

Part 1: Comissão de frente - These are the people in the very front of the parade.  Sort of acting like the banner at the front of a marching band, they introduce their school with a choreographed presentation and dance that tells a story, the theme of their school's parade.  

Part 2: Abre-alas - Next, the first float.  These can reach over 4 stories high and usually integrate the history of the school.  They are very elaborate and very large - amazingly, it is against the rules to use engines (partly to keep from having fires) so they must be propelled by human force!

This the school Estacio de sa performing these first two parts.  It's an heroic tale of the knight making peace with an evil dragon.

Part 3: Mestre-sala & Porta-bandeira - This is a man and woman couple that are elaborately dressed and dance around each other while prominently displaying the school flag.

Part 4: Ala das baianas & other dancers - Then the majority of the samba school, separated into age, perhaps sex, or costume theme.  Hundreds of dancers parade through, sometimes in elaborate dress, sometimes wearing nearly nothing!

Part 5: Bateria - The band follows at the rear playing the school song, perhaps sung by a famous singer, with many varieties of drums, brass instruments, and perhaps some other instruments or whistles.

As I mentioned, many of the people involved are from the slums, the favelas, which spread throughout the city, and are adjacent to the nicest parts of town.  They spend the entire year building their costumes, practicing their instruments, and practicing their dances.

Today's teaser - I barely snuck this one through the censors...any ideas on what our stadium construction project may be?  Too bad you can't see the other side...

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