Masked Ball History

The History of Masked Balls in Rio de Janeiro.

The Rio Carnival hasn't turned out to be the biggest show on the planet without good reason. To understand the true meaning of the Carnival it is prudent to learn a bit about masked ball history.

The Carnival is steeped in tradition with the first masked ball held way back in 1641. Every year the Carnival has something new and exciting to look forward too. Every day of the Rio Carnival is different.

From extravagant costumes with feathered headdresses to creative and titillating versions adorn by samba queens and dancers, the parades at the Rio Carnival are tantalizingly brilliant performances that represent the true spirit of carioca culture, with a mix of African and European traditions. From the Magic Ball at the Copacabana Palace Hotel to the Gay Costume Ball at the Scala Rio Nightclub, it is worth investigating how masked balls have had a great influence on these events.

Rio Carnival Masked Ball History

Masked balls – an event for the wealthy

Governor Salvator Correia de Sá e Benvides dedicated the first Rio Carnival way back in 1641 to King Dom Dom João IV, the man behind the restoration of Portugal rule in Brazil. Great attention was paid to the celebrations although historians discard the use of masks during the event. This was followed by another spectacle in 1786. However, historians believe the first masquerade party was held in 1840 at the Hotel Italia on the 22nd of January as part of the Carnival celebrations. However, it only gained popularity three decades later where a great deal of importance was given to costumes. These were lavish events that were segregated into a few attended by the wealthy while other masked balls were hosted for everyone. Over time, these events became more popular during the Rio Carnival and soon became the highlight of the celebrations with the spirit of competition gaining ground.

Music at the masked balls

Over the years, well-known hotels and clubs began to host masquerade parties during the Rio Carnival brining on a new meaning to entertainment.

These included a series of high profile masked balls that soon attracted the attention of people from all over the world. The Magic Ball at the Copacabana Palace Hotel, and other events like the Official City Gala Ball at the Theatre Palacio and Automobile Club of Brazil set the tone for series of wild celebrations to be held during the Carnival. A distinct European style of music was predominant at most of these events, which included the Polka, waltz, and mazurka.

However, towards the beginning of the 20th century, the Afro Brazilians developed their own rhythms that came to be known of the samba, which is now the backbone of celebrations at the Rio Carnival.

The Afro Brazilians settled down in the central part of Rio, which is known as the cradle of samba. Masked balls were discontinued during World War II, only to make a comeback in 1947, with the main competition held in downtown Rio on Avenida Rio Branco, where men and women from all lifestyles turned up in the thousand vying for attention in the most flamboyant and colorful costumes.

A choice of Carnival balls to suit every budget and lifestyle

With the emergence of samba schools and fashionable and exotic costumes, the Rio Carnival witnessed an ever increasing number of masked balls although the costumes became skimpier. Among the elite and extravagant masked balls to survive are the Magic Ball at the Copa and the series of balls at the Scala Rio Nightclub now located in downtown Rio on Rua 13 de Maio, 23, Downtown Rio de Janeiro. With the addition of the Sambadrome, the Rio Carnival today has Carnival balls suited for every budget and lifestyle.

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