Get set for the Rio Carnival 2016, an event that transforms the city into one big party zone before the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar. The origins of the carnival date back to the early 15th century with many pagan festivals held in honor of various gods. The carnival attracts over a million visitors to Rio, who attend parties ranging from wild, raucous events to the more sophisticated balls. There is never a dull moment during Carnival week, with street parties and parades hosted at every corner of the city. The Rio Carnival 2016 is an event you never ought to miss if you have the privilege of heading for Rio. All eyes are on the biggest party on the planet, and experiencing it first hand is a great way to get a taste of true carioca entertainment.
Carnival – The journey from mud parties to technologically advanced extravaganzas
The samba is synonymous with the Rio Carnival. However, it wasn’t until 1921 that the sounds of the samba began to spin its magic over carnival revelers. While technology plays an important role in the creation of costumes and samba themes today, carnival celebrations during the mid 1600s were usually in the form of masquerade balls held by the elite in Europe. The locals took to the streets to imitate their elite counterparts with mud fights and street brawls becoming their way of celebration. However, this soon gave way to formal and organized parades with elaborate and expensive costumes. The Portuguese who brought the carnival to Brazil were among the first to organize street parades. Marching bands and ornately decorated floats and costumes became a regular feature during the 1890s. Parades were organized by neighborhoods, which are now known as blocos, who now host the infamous street parties across Rio today. Make sure you attend some of these parties during the Rio Carnival 2016. You have a choice of over 400 parties to choose from.
The African influence on the carnival
While the Carnival evolved over time during Portuguese rule, the carnival that is keenly observed throughout the globe today has a great African influence. African slaves that were brought by the Portuguese brought with them music, dance, and drumbeats that eventually saw the birth of the samba. When slavery was abolished many of these slaves moved to Rio, bringing with them the fascinating rhythms of the samba, which was quickly adapted by Carnival planners. You will definitely get your fill of the samba during the Rio Carnival 2016.
Rio’s samba schools – the pride of the carnival
The intoxicating beats of the samba drums continued to influence every Carnival during the 1920s, which also heralded the formation of samba schools with the finest talent. Samba musicians and dancers were in great demand as the competition continued to grow. The first samba school, Mangueira, formed in 1928 set the foundation for many more schools that attracted local talent. The Carnival presented the perfect opportunity for these schools to showcase their talent. Along with Mangueira, you can watch several other top samba schools at the Rio Carnival 2016. Look out for the most talented bunch of samba musicians and dancers from schools such as Beija Flor, Mocidade, Salgueiro, and Grande Rio, which have a large following and support of celebrities as well. Samba schools strive hard throughout the year to put up the most spectacular show at the Sambadrome.
The Sambadrome and samba parades
The Sambadrome was built in 1984 to make way for the ever-increasing number of samba schools that entered the competition during the Carnival. The stadium was renovated in time for the 2014 carnival, with additional seats for the convenience of visitors that desired to experience the true spirit of the celebrations from its epicenter. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the Sambadrome consists of seating on both sides of a runway on which samba schools have 80 minutes to put up a grand performance complete with elaborate floats and costumes that are backed up with the best samba musicians and dancers. Each school presents a theme around which they develop their own samba song. The theme is portrayed by thousands of samba dancers, actors, and musicians during their parade down the runway in a bid to score points from the judges and ultimately the Champion of Champions title.
Samba Parade – a spectacular community effort
It takes a whole bunch of dress designers, architects, engineers, carpenters, electricians, musicians, fabulous samba dancers, and thousands of other workers to create an impressive show. Undoubtedly, the Rio Carnival 2016 at the Sambadrome will have samba schools presenting a colorful spectacle of music and dance. While the panel of 40 judges continues to award points based on various criteria, the crowd is held in awe by the sensuous dancers swaying to the intoxicating rhythms of the samba. You will find cariocas in the crowd singing along with their favorite samba school. The samba-enredo is the song performed by the school during the parade.
The Carnival begins
The Rio Carnival 2016 begins with the mayor handing over the keys of the city to King Momo in the presence of royalty. The king then announces the beginning of carnival celebrations, a time when the entire city erupts into one giant party zone where carnival balls, street parties, and other events at bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.
The competition gets hotter during the Rio Carnival 2016
Fierce competition at the Rio Carnival 2016 gets underway with the Access Group on Carnival Friday and Saturday. The samba schools vie for a spot in the top 12 teams in the Special Group, a coveted position in which they can prove their mettle the following year. The Access Group features upcoming samba schools along with other schools that may have been relegated the previous year’s competition. The action heats up on Carnival Sunday and Monday with the Special Group performing on the runway. The schools perform in the presence of a panel of 40 judges that decide the fate of each school on Ash Wednesday. The Children's Parade take place on Tuesday, the night before the big decision. On Saturday following the competition, the top 6 schools prove their existence at the top once more.
A choice of carnival ball entertainment
While everyone in Rio gets to party, the rich and famous gather at the Copacabana Palace Hotel. The hotel is the venue of the prestigious Magic Ball, where celebrities and wealthy individuals from around the globe walk the red carpet and grace the occasion in flamboyant costumes. The opulent extravaganza is well attended so you will need to book your tickets early. In a city as diverse as Rio you can expect varied entertainment as well when it comes to carnival balls. At the other end of the spectrum are the series of events held at the Scala Rio Nightclub. The Scala Gay Ball, although not only for gays, is one of the most outrageous occasions where drag queens and transvestites in their garish, outlandish, and often revealing costumes vie for attention. During the Rio Carnival 2016, the Gay Ball is one of the wildest bashes you could attend, which also brings the Carnival celebrations to a close on Carnival Tuesday.
Street Parties – Celebrating with the locals
The street parties epitomize Rio’s true carnival culture with hundreds of parties held at street corners. Blocos or neighborhood groups organize street parades, the popular among them being Banda de Ipanema, Simpatia é Quase Amor, Imprensa Que Eu Gamo, and Monobloco, although these are just the tip of the iceberg. Some of these street parties are best enjoyed in a costume. Everyone is free to join in the parade but you will still have just as much fun as you would at one of the carnival balls or the Sambadrome during the Rio Carnival 2016.
Attending the Carnival
Plan in advance and books your seats early for the Rio Carnival 2016. The rush for tickets and hotel accommodation begins months in advance. There are several agencies that offer Carnival bookings at economical prices. You can opt for an entire package, which includes tickets to the Sambadrome and carnival balls of your choice as well. Samba schools welcome you to join their team at the Sambadrome. To participate in the parade they will provide you with a costume and instructions of your role in the parade.
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