|How to Parade with a Rio Samba School|
|Written by Giselle W|
|Saturday, 17 October 2009 11:51|
Have you always dreamed about parading with a Rio Samba School?
If you get the opportunity, here's how to get the very best out of your experience.
Its easy to buy an expensive tourist package for Rio Carnival that includes parading with a Samba School. But if you want to do it yourself, or you are going with a package tour and want to understand how to get the most out of this once in a lifetime experience, here's how to go about it.
Every year in the samba parades you can see confused tourists in costumes being herded by stewards, trying to fit in. Most have a good time, but with preparation you can win the respect of the locals, and help your samba school in their effort to win carnival, too.
How to join a samba school parade
Anyone can buy a fantasia (costume) from a samba school and join in the parade. If you visit a Samba School's general rehearsal, you will usually see any costumes still available, on display. You can also buy a costume through the websites of some samba schools.
Samba schools' websites are listed on our 'Rio samba schools and rehearsals' articles. Look for pages of 'fantasias' and follow the contact information for the costume you want. Each costume is made and organised by a different group of people, known as an ALA. The ala supervises the making and distribution of its costume and the organisation of the people wearing it in the carnival parade. Only some alas are available over the net and the best costumes sell out quickly.
You cannot buy a costume for the bateria though, people qualify for these through long months of attending every rehearsal. Some choreographed alas also need regular commitment before carnival, and there are community alas not open to the general public, too.
This year some samba schools are banning foreigners, because large numbers of unprepared and ignorant people who do not speak Portuguese can jeopardise the schools performance. But if you can learn the song (albeit very badly) before you parade, and you know how to REALLY enjoy yourself, you will be adding to your school's parade, not harming it.
What you need to know if you are planning to parade..........
The samba schools are participating in a very serious competition. A school judged partially by the participants' performance and their singing of the samba school's song. You can buy the official CD before you go - it has all of the sambas of the Special Group, and the words. You can buy the 2010 Grupo Especial CD and the Grupo A and B CDs from our samba enredo pages (see below). Alternatively you can sometimes hear the sambas and you can always get the words from the samba schools websites.
You will be asked to meet up with your ala (group of dancers) in the concentracao, a couple of hours before the parade, This is where everyone gets ready and gets into position, and its a very exciting place. You can walk right up to the floats and dancers.
But dont wave around expensive cameras and recording equipment or lots of money. Many impoverished Cariocas are praying all year to find a careless tourist in carnival, and Rio pickpockets are not amateurs.
It takes about half an hour for most revellers to parade down the sambodrome, though you will be waiting around in a fever of excitement for a couple of hours beforehand, in the most interesting place in the world, the concentracao, where the schools gather for the parade.
Follow all the instructions given to you, which will probably be communicated by stewards shoving you around. Don't get annoyed, this is normal, and anyway there's no point in them shouting at you in Portuguese. Just smile and be cooperative.
You will not be allowed to carry a bag or camera into the Sambódromo, or any of your street clothes: anything you carry must be completely hidden under the fantasia, so get yours a few days in advance and work out the logistics.
If you need to supplement a skimpy costume with bras etc find out what colour everyone is supposed to be wearing - the school may lose points if you don't all match within your ala. There is nowhere to store your street clothes and shoes whilst you are parading so make sure you can carry them under your costume without them showing! Many people simply travel to and from the parade by metro in their costumes.
Dont make yourself a target for street theft by carrying expensive cameras or lots of money.
What to do after you have finished parading
If you don't have a ticket, you will leave the carnival avenida and find youself in a place where there are plenty of taxis. Take one back to your hotel, have a shower and a rest, and then head out to join in Rio's free street carnival.