Thousands of samba dancers have been seen partying in Brazil for the opening of the city’s world-famous carnival.
The country’s 12 top samba schools kicked off the annual parade competition in the giant avenue-turned-stadium known as the ‘Sambadrome’ in Sau Paulo.
At the two-night competition, the samba schools battle for the title of parade champions with dazzling floats, thundering music, and thousands of singers, drummers and dancers in revealing, jewel-encrusted, feather-covered costumes.
At least 70,000 spectators will cheer them on from the packed stands of the city’s designated parade venue, with millions more expected to watch live on TV.
This year’s parades include homages to little-known heroes of Afro-Brazilian history, a tribute to multi-platinum samba singer Alcione and a celebration of the Yanomami Indigenous people.
Revelers of the Aguia de Ouro samba school perform during the second night of carnival
Aline de Oliveira is participating in the parade of the samba schools in Sao Paulo, which is part of the special group of the samba schools’ parades,
Tom Maior samba school during the parade that is being watched by millions around the world
Revellers from Academicos do Tucuruvi school perform during the second night of the Carnival parade at Anhembi Sambadrome in Sao Paulo
The country’s 12 top samba schools kicked off the annual parade competition in the giant avenue-turned-stadium
Invented a century ago by the descendants of African slaves, samba is one of the great symbols of Brazilian popular culture, and of Rio.
The samba schools are rooted in Brazil’s impoverished favela neighborhoods, and each parade tells a story, often dealing with politics, social issues and history.
Each samba school has 60 to 70 minutes to dazzle its way down the 700 meters (yards) of the Marques de Sapucai, the avenue through the concrete carnival parade temple designed by modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer.
A jury will judge each school down to the minutest detail, with potentially devastating fractions of points deducted for being out of sync, running overtime or lacking flair.
The parades were particularly political under far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro, who faced accusations of authoritarianism, racism, environmental destruction and disastrous mishandling of Covid-19 – all fodder for the samba schools during his presidency (2019-2022).
This year, carnival is hitting its peak just as Bolsonaro, no fan of the festival, is caught up in a damaging police investigation into accusations he and his allies plotted a “coup” to keep him in power despite losing Brazil’s 2022 elections.
Vivian Pereira, a member of independent research group Quilombo do Samba, said: ‘The samba schools are tuned in to the social and political scene, and they use their space, that hour on the avenue, to talk about those issues.’
Carnival is also big business for Rio: the party is expected to generate 5.3 billion reais (more than $1 billion) in revenues this year.
Revelers of the Aguia de Ouro had 60 to 70 minutes to dazzle its way down the 700 meters (yards) of the Marques de Sapucai
The samba schools are rooted in Brazil’s impoverished favela neighborhoods, and each parade tells a story, often dealing with politics, social issues and history
Although the parade contest is the climax, Rio has in fact been celebrating carnival for weeks with free-for-all street parties known as “blocos.”
A colorful crowd of revelers descended on the iconic beach neighborhood of Ipanema on Saturday for a bloco in tribute to Afro-Brazilian writer Conceicao Evaristo.
Thanking them, Evaristo told newspaper O Globo she sees carnival as a time not just to celebrate but to reflect on Brazil, a country of vast inequality.
She said: ‘May this moment of joy transform… Brazilians’ everyday social, political and economic relations, and may everyone be included, not just in the citizenship of fun, but in the citizenship of equal rights.’