February 26, 2017

Carnaval in the Sambadrome

Some of our American friends here in Sao Paulo joined a Samba club and danced in the competition parade Friday night. The costumes were so over the top impressive, the floats incredible and the infectious beat of the drums propelled everyone to movement.

Here we are with them and some of the other costumes around us . . .

The parade started a touch after 11pm and 7 Samba schools participate each night for 3 nights. They each get an hour. Yes, that makes for a VERY late night. Thankfully, our friends were the second school to go. We ended up getting home just before 3 am.

There are approximately 3000 dancers in each school and each one had about 5 floats. I suppose that makes 63,000 dancers/costumes and 105 floats in total for the 3 nights. The winning school will dance again on Fat Tuesday. I've actually never experienced such flawless organization and execution in Brazil since I've been here. Lots of things seem fairly haphazard. But not this. This, my friends, was a logistical nightmare yet they pulled it off beautifully.

The first float we saw had marionette "puppets" dancing. They're not puppets but really dancers with ribbons connecting them to sticks on giant hands. Incredible. My mom would've loved it. And I kinda really hope she can look in on this type of stuff...because if she lived here, I'm pretty sure she'd be on whatever costuming and float committees she could find.

The Sambadrome is a stadium for parades. Like it's a narrow lane with bleachers on either side. I understand it fits 30,000 people. As the night got later, more people came. Some who'd already performed with earlier groups. And there were thousands outside the gates.

What I didn't understand until we came was why a parade wouldn't be on the regular street. Why this special stadium? Well, these floats are amazing. In Portuguese, they're called carro alegórico (allegorical cars). Each one has a theme and tells a story. I'd love to know which stories, but I'm not up on my Brazilian folklore. But I digress. The floats are big. Like probably 30-50 feet tall. Most had at least 50 different dancers on them. They quite simply wouldn't fit with telephone wires on a regular street. That would be a disaster.

In fact, on the way home we saw a disaster. Traffic was slow, which is weird in the middle of the night...but hey, Sao Paulo has many surprises. One slowdown was for a float trying to go under an overpass on the freeway. The driver slowed down to a crawl to make sure he could fit. 

Another looked like it hopped a curb trying to exit said freeway. And yet another looked like maybe it had been trying to turn a corner and there were pieces of this float in the road with half a dozen people trying to help. Poor float. And poor creators who were probably frantically trying to put it back together for it's time in the spotlight.

This fun pink lady had trapeze artists hanging off the back of it. So, uh, yeah. This is what I mean when I say the floats are over the top. I mean seriously. Brazil is schooling the world on how to do floats. Go big or go home. Not really. Go big or come to Brazil. That's the message, alright.

On the back of each float there were maybe 20 guys pushing it along. I'm not sure if there were any motorized sections, but it didn't appeared to be.

Pretty much I loved this warrior princess fighting her dragon. Look at her feathers. Amazing. I wonder how many birds had to die for this celebration...actually, I wonder if they are real or fake. I didn't play with any so I'm not entirely sure.


There weren't any topless girls, which everyone at church was worried about. I thought the same...until I saw my friend's costume. Then I started thinking maybe this would be an okay activity. The only sketchy thing is that they had condoms by the basket full and were handing them out. To everyone. Because everyone has sex at a parade???

There were cleaning crews after each school performed. I loved this garbage can/vacuum. And the only street sweepers I've ever seen in Brazil happened to be here at the parade.

I'm grateful for the opportunity we had to experience Carnaval in Brazil. It's such an incredible cultural celebration. One that I highly recommend. But more the clean version and less the wearing of nothing but body paint and drinking all night long and not knowing who exactly you slept with. The latter is self destructive. The former is glorious.

And our beautiful children watched Netflix and put themselves to bed. They let us sleep until almost noon and brought us breakfast in bed. Well, granola and milk in bed. But still. It's been a really long time since we stayed out late like this. And no, I'm not including our night-flights to/from Brazil in the same staying out late category. Ha ha.
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