The parades in Rio at the Sambadrome are one of the world’s greatest festivals. All throughout the year, people are anticipating when King Momo is handed the key to the city. It’s the signal to start the week-long party. It’s like being given a license to forget everything and just focus on living the moment amid a sea of fascinating creatures and colorful costumes.
The 12 most popular samba schools are at the forefront of the parades in Rio. They vie for the title of champion at the Sambadrome on Carnival Sunday and Monday. The competition is stiff although the revelers never forget to have fun. The Access Group is given the privilege to perform on Carnival Friday and Saturday.
During the festivity, the dancers, spectators and foreign visitors alike mingle and without even meaning to, adopt the mindset of making that particular Carnival the best party yet.
Category of the Parades in Rio
All roads lead to the Sambadrome during the Carnival.
The displays are opened with the children’s parade each year. This is followed by the Gold Group also known as Access Group and finally the Special Group. Each year, even if you think they couldn’t get better, the schools deliver unique performances that dwarf their previous exhibitions.
Escolas de Samba Mirins After the Access or Gold Group and Special Parade, the Escolas de Samba Mirins, or children’s parade, commences on Tuesday.
This is actually a long-time tradition involving affiliates of the bigger samba schools that have been participating in the Carnival for over thirty years now. If you are traveling with the family, this is one of the parades in Rio to bring along your children.
Aside from being free, you can be assured that there would be no sexy costumes or even nudity that has become associated with the Carnival. In terms of extravagance, the children’s parade is more than up to task.
Watching the whole spectacle at the Sambadrome, it’s amazing to think that the Escolas de Samba Mirins is conceptualized, choreographed and prepared by the children themselves. With over 2,000 kids participating, it’s like watching a mini-Carnival parade.
Access or Gold Group: the First Batch
The samba schools that will perform at the Sambadrome are categorized to determine who will perform first. Schools belonging to Gold Group, also called the Access Group, are scheduled to present their acts on Friday and Saturday.
These schools fight for the chance to be included in this group. Although they don’t have the same corporate support compared to the Special Group, for example, it doesn’t mean that the audience will leave feeling shortchanged. All the parades in Rio are carefully planned and this is no exception.
The Special Group: Reputations are at Stake
There’s a reason for the term, the top samba schools included in this exclusive group have the opportunity to perform during the Carnival Sunday and Monday, with thousands on the stands and millions of tele-viewers around the world. Six of the most experienced samba schools present on Sunday while the six other schools perform on Monday.
Top schools like Unidos da Tijuca, Salgueiro, Grande Rio, and Manguera covet that championship title. This is one of the most popular parades in Rio so that means you have to book way ahead if you want to secure tickets.
Parades in Rio: Hail the Champs
Among all the parades in Rio, the championship parade is the time for the schools to really let loose. After the judges announce the results on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the top six schools are given another opportunity to prove that the judges’ choice is correct with another last march at the Sambadrome on Saturday. There are no more prizes at stake here so the samba schools can just focus on their performance.
If you fail to get tickets for the Carnival Sunday and Monday, this is your chance to see the action live. Besides, the tickets to this event are much cheaper.
How the Performances are Assessed
The parades in Rio are not equally viewed. Some performances are considered more significant than others. There are 40 judges sitting strategically all over the Sambadrome. They are given 10 categories to evaluate.
Each category is scored from a score of 9 to 10. Among the major categories that can spell the difference between victory and losing is the percussion band, which is the considered the driving force for the whole act. The Samba drummers are known to send crowds into a feverish pace with accurate and well-timed banging to the drums. Consistency and precision are keys to getting a good score.
The schools participating in the parades in Rio spend a lot of time choosing and perfecting the samba song that will best portray the theme of their choosing. Here, lyrics and the melody are very important as well as the harmony with the choreography of the samba they are performing.
The schools are judged according to the tempo and the shifts in strides as they transition from one unit to another in unity to the overall Flow and Spirit.
The costumes, props and the floats further accentuate the execution of the samba. The judges look for the accurate depiction of the costumes to the overall theme. The parades in Rio, particularly at the Sambadrome, are preceded by the Vanguard Commission which refers to a troupe of a dozen dancers who has the enviable task of introducing the schools they are representing.
To add spice to the whole opening, these schools typically hire the services of celebrities who are quite game in egging on the crowd. The Flag Bearers and their escorts of each school are chosen because of their skills in samba, although judges take special attention on the first couple waving the flags. Each school spends nearly a year choosing which samba theme to adopt then making sure to execute it to the letter at the Sambadrome.
The whole performances give new meaning to the term “putting your best foot forward” since judges are given a lot of elbow room to award points based on their impressions, a rather vague category which relies on the experience and knowledge of the persons judging the events.
How to Get Seats at Sambadrome
The seating capacity at the Sambadrome is very limited. The stadium can only accommodate 80,000 people at a time even as millions try to secure an invitation to witness the “Greatest Show on Earth.” This means the tickets are a hot commodity.
This also means tourists are vulnerable to scalpers, so take heed. The price of each ticket differs depending on where you will be seated. There are the grandstands, bleachers and the luxury suites which command the highest prices and usually reserved by A-listers.
Naturally, the pricey tickets are reserved during the Carnival Sunday and Monday where the top schools compete for the title. The best bet for you is to watch the Access or Gold Group perform, which is comparable to the culminating performances. No matter what you are lucky enough to watch, whether the Special Group or the Gold Group, the parades in Rio are guaranteed to be spectacular.