Five different types of samba parades take place at the Sambodromo during carnival time and these usually follow the same pattern year after year, beginning with the children’s parade and ending with the winner's parade.
The Access Group
The access group that parades on the first and second day of carnival, February 12th and February 13th, 2021 is like the second division of schools. They’re competing to get into the special group. They are traditional and beautiful samba schools , but the schools are simpler and the parades are too. This group is made up of 12 samba schools and the winner of this group gains entry into the Special Group the following year. The performances begin at 10pm.
The schools that compete in this group usually do not have access to the financial resources and sponsors that many of the Special group schools do, but most of them are as experienced and proficient.
The Special Group
The special group parade are the parades of the main samba schools of Rio. On these days the best and most famous samba schools perform with extravagant costumes and floats.
The performances of the Special Group are the highlight of the samba parade at the Sambodromo and this magnificent spectacle is recognized as the main carnival event around the world. Out of the 12 schools in this group, half perform on carnival Sunday and the other on carnival Monday. In 2021 these dates fall on the February 14th and 15th respectively. The performances will begin at 9pm.
The Children’s Parade
Most samba schools have a children’s section and they perform as well during carnival, in the same manner as the main groups. In 2021, the children’s parade will commence on Tuesday February 16th.
The Champion’s Parade
The Champion's parade, that happens on the following Saturday, February 22th, reunites the Champion school and five runner-ups, from the special group parades, celebrating victory and closing the Rio Carnival Samba Parades.
After the winner has been announced, the following Saturday showcases the victorious parade, comprising of the schools ranked 1 to 6 in the samba parade of the special group. This parade is not as expensive as the parades of the previous Sunday and Monday.
How the samba parade is judged
The participants in the Rio samba parade are judged on 10 categories which are Percussion Band, Samba Song, Harmony, Flow and Spirit, Floats and Props, Costumes, Vanguard Group, The Flag Bearer, Theme of the Year and Overall Impression. The appointed judges are located at various points of the samba runway and allocate points on a scale of 5 to 10, with 10 being the highest. Each of the 10 categories has 4 judges, resulting in a total of 40 judges at the event.
In the Percussion Band category, judges look for consistency amongst all performers and the ability to work in tune with each other. Being innovative within the limited scope allowed (wind and brass instruments are not allowed) is highly favored.
The school’s samba song is judged based on its lyrics, melody and ability to bring out the essence of the theme for the year, while schools that are able to successfully synchronize all the elements of the performance will score in the Harmony category. Flow and Spirit judges the members on how smoothly they are able to maintain the pace of the performance and transition between sections, while at the same time adding character and vitality to the show. Costumes, Floats and Props are judged on their visual appeal, creativity and appropriateness with regard to the theme.
While the Vanguard Commission is judged on the choreography of its performance and how well it catches one’s attention in introducing the school, The Flag Bearer and her escort are judged on how well they coordinate as a couple, their proficiency in dancing, poise, flexibility and range. The Theme of the Year category refers to how creative, understandable and relevant a school’s theme is and how well it has been incorporated in the program, while Overall Impression is a subjective category where schools are judged on the effectiveness of their performance as a whole.