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Samba Parade - Entertainment - Brazil

Each year, the 14 best samba schools in Rio de Janeiro light up the night when they march in the Sambodromo parade. The spectacular parade is the highlight of Rio’s Carnival and should only be missed if you don't have the cash to cover the ticket prices (which can range between $100 -$700 USD).

Thousands of excited samba fans gather at the Sambodromo -- a permanent concrete stadium that consists of several bleacher-like structures built alongside avenue, Marques de Sapucai. It is said that during Carnival, the samba schools receive the same sort of fanatical devotion normally reserved in Brazil for soccer players.

In 1984, the half-mile long Sambodromo was built for the annual fiesta, turning a page in samba parade history. Up to 50,000 spectators can watch as the schools parade down a runway to Apotheosis Square, the performance area. One at a time, the samba schools compete before a jury. The judges decide what the best performance is and who is ultimately declared the best in all of Brazil.

Winning is a serious matter and no small task. The competition is fierce and stakes are high, since everyone wants to be known as the most prestigious school. Some schools reportedly budget around $1,000,000 for Carnival preparations. Elaborate costumes, intricate floats and many props are essential to a stellar routine. Each school spends the entire year designing, rehearsing and refining for their 80 minutes in the spotlight.

The contest is fiercely competitive. The top 14 schools march on Carnival Sunday and Monday, seven each night. All schools select a theme and a song for their performance. Each of the 14 schools features between 2,500-6,000 performers and five to ten creative carros alegoricos, or floats. Typically every school divides its performers into alas, wings, each with different costumes. Elaborate and wild costumes, often complete with sparkling sequins and colorful feathers, finely detailed face and body art, and an assortment of props are used to enhance the set. Each school has a flag holder and a master of ceremonies who are responsible for carrying and protecting its flag. These are perhaps some of the most prestigious positions of all the Carnival ceremonies.

The artists have 80 minutes to perform and act out their plot by using music, dance, floats and costumes. The schools are judged on how fluidly they harmonize from one segment to another. They are critiqued by 40 judges, with four judges for each of the following categories: the samba song, harmony, development, the theme, floats and decorations, drums, costumes, the vanguard commission (a dance team of about 15 people that introduces the group) the flag bearer and overall presentation. Scores are given on a scale of 5 to10, with 10 being perfect. The scores are counted and announced on Ash Wednesday.

Tickets for the Sambodromo parade are on sale at tourism agencies and hotels. If you buy tickets from scalpers, most of the times, it is old tickets from last years etc.

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Entertainment, Culture and Arts

20 Jul 2011

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