Rio Carnival 2012 – The Greatest Show on Earth, Events and Experiences

The Greatest Show on Earth concluded on February 22 this year with a lot of fanfare and splendor. The Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is easily the biggest carnival in the world, an event that is witnessed by nearly two million people per day. It is held for four days, starting from Friday and ending on Tuesday, just before the commencement of the Lent period, or ‘Ash Wednesday’.

The history of Carnival goes back to the year 1723. The highlight of the events is the carnival parades which are an elaborate procession of floats and Samba dances. Several samba schools participate in the event, the term ‘samba school’ can mean a full-fledged Samba school or a group of locals who attend the carnival. Some of the popular Samba schools are Uniao de Sonhadores, Mocidade Independente, Academicos do Salgueiro, Imperio Serrano, Beija-Flor de Nilopolis and Unidos da Tijuca.

The climax of the Carnival festival is the competition between the schools with the winner being declared on Tuesday. Every school has to choose a theme and base their presentation in terms of floats, music and dances based on this concept. The parades take places in the Sambodromo, the temple of the carnival events.

There are Carnival ball events also that are held with much splendor, most of them held at the beach and the
Copacabana Palace. Street festivals are patronized by the locals, though there may not be much extravagance here, there is lots of rustic music and energetic dancing. It does not cost anything to be a part of these events, just an attitude to have fun. If you are in mood for street parties, the street band of Ipanema takes the cake, for being the most flamboyant band out there.

Dances are an integral part of every Rio Carnival event, the most popular being ‘Samba’ which is a popular Brazilian dance with African influences. There are other dances also which are popular like the polka, the maxixe and the lundu. The type of Samba that is actually performed a lot in Rio is called ‘batcuada’, which is based on percussion instruments. The percussionist rhythms are such that very few can resist singing and dancing to the rhythmic beats.
There is a lot of beer consumption in Rio Carnival, costing just $1.75, located just a step away. With all the revelry, singing, dance, and drinking, it can become tough to control nature’s calls especially in crowded places. This year more than 800 men and women were arrested for public urination amidst criticism. A reveler Samantha adds, “There is too much beer, too many people and not enough toilets, just one for every 5,500 people. Even if you get one in time, you will find a long bee-line there’

Coming back to the famous parades, on the last day of the Carnival, there was a huge crowd gathering to check out the Samba school winner this year. 13 best Samba schools had participated with elaborate floats and exquisite costumes, themed dance and music. The winner declared was Unidos da Tijuca for its brilliant performance comprising 4000 dancers and stunning floats. Their performance was a mix of traditional Samba dance couple with Torro rhythm, a popular North-eastern form of song and dance.

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