Carnival is getting ready to begin and all of Brazil is swaying to the rhythms of Samba. Sure there are big Mardi Gras and Carnival parties throughout the world but Brazil, specifically Rio de Janeiro, is renowned for theirs.
Unlike in New Orleans, which celebrates Fat Tuesday, Rio de Janeiro celebrates Carnival starting the Friday before and parties all the way through. I’ve also heard that it consists of going to the beach and bloco parties (small neighborhood Carnival parades), with very little sleep.
While Carnival is a lot of partying and fun it isn’t thrown together after the fact. No, on the contrary, there are numerous Samba schools located in the Samba district of Rio de Janeiro who begin preparing for the following year’s Carnival while they are still cleaning up after the current Carnival. The grand conclusion is a huge parade where schools are given the opportunity to compete for the honor of being deemed the best Samba school. The past few years, Tijuca Samba School has worn that crown proudly. From the pictures and videos it is easy to see that there is a lot of costumes and floats when it comes to the Carnival parade, which does not come cheap. Therefore leading up to Carnival you will see a lot of samba schools open up to the public for a night of dancing. We went to Tijuca, which was $R20 for guys and free for women to enter – you can also purchase a table in a reserved area for about the cost of $R40 per person.
Tijuca opened up around 10pm and while it started slowly, the continual flow of people coming in helped to liven up the celebration. At first the dance floor was open, without a single person on the floor, everyone was waiting for the band. Once the band started playing you can barely squeeze by the once empty dance floor. The band started playing a slow, bass filled rythem that got your feet moving without you knowingly trying to dance.
Like a heart beat it built up from a slow pace into an all out Samba with all the other instruments coming through. At times people, from the Samba school, dressed up in blue and yellow squeeze by you and begin to move and samba in a way that just makes you stand still in disbelief.
We left the samba school around 2:30 at night, and people were still pouring in. From what we were told they often play until 4 or later. My one bit of advice if you are going and plan to enjoy a few beers is to purchase a bucket which saves you about $R20 plus they plop ice in your bucket so it stays pretty cold. There are also salgadinhos and other snacks so don’t worry if you work up an appetite trying to move your feet even remotely as fast as some of the native Cariocas.