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Published: February 19th 2013
The Sambadrome is a purpose built parade area in downtown Rio, it’s a 700m stretch of street converted into a permanent parade ground with bleachers built along both sides, with a 90,000 capacity.
It’s the part of carnival that’s broadcasted all over the world, the competition between samba schools to win the carnival crown.
The schools gain points for lots of aspect of their parade, one of them being the inclusion of tourists in the dancing chorus, for what seemed like an astronomical amount of money (especially after I’ve been travelling on a budget for a long time) you get a costume to keep and get to join in the parade. Whilst it’s not an expense I could justify – or truthfully something that I think I would enjoy all that much – some friends were dancing the night we attended, spotting them in the crowd would have been amazing, although we were pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to – and we were right!
Getting the metro to the sambadrome was a party in itself, people in all manner of dress, all in an amazing mood, singing and dancing their way underground to
The sambadrome is huge, it puts any other venue I’ve ever attended to shame, but with the usual fast food outlets (abet of the South American flavour) and beer sellers it had the feel of any other big sporting or music venue.
Each samba school has 90 minutes to make their way down the length of the sambadrome, with 6 schools competing on Monday night we were in for a long run.
The atmosphere is electric, people sing along and dance in and on the seats, flags are passed out to be waved for a favourite school, I couldn’t get over the size of each school parade. Multiple floats, a drum section and thousands of dancers in coordinating costumes, some so elaborate that you wonder they can move in them let alone dance. I’m wearing a tiny summer dress and flip flops, have access to a cardboard fan and plenty of liquid and the heat is effecting me (it’s still in the 30’s at gone 10pm). Some of the dancers are encased in plastic, metal, huge headwear….. and yet they samba along waving and smiling like it’s no effort at all.
After each school finishes orange suited street cleaners swam down the runway, clearing the way for the next school, even these guys get in on the action, one – obviously relishing being centre stage – samba danced with his broom earning cheers and whistles from the crowd.
We danced along with it all, singing along to Portuguese songs with no idea of the words, it didn’t seem to matter, all that mattered was being involved.
All in all a totally amazing, memorable evening.
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