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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rio Carnival Costumes and the Greatest Show on Earth

The fact that spectators are now allowed to purchase a costume and participate in Rio’s Carnival illustrates that as times advance traditions do change. In this aspect Rio’s Carnival has taken a step in a direction comparable to Trinidad’s Carnival yet the two Carnivals remain distinctly different.

As I had reported before I am on the mailing list for Rio Carnival and frequently get updates, yesterday I got an email saying that costumes were ready for slection:

Dear Saucy Diva,

Thank you for already using Rio Carnival Services.

Per your request, we are pleased to let you know that all costumes for the 2008 Rio Samba Parade are already available.

Come and visit our dedicated page which explains how to buy your costume in order to be able to participate

We suggest buying your costume in the first two weeks of January when usually all costumes are still available. However you will find costumes, sometimes with huge discounts, even a few days before the Parade for the less sought-after schools.


Rio Carnival Services

After perusing the many, many websites of Samba Schools which are offering “foreigners” a chance to experience Rio Carnival at a fee, I have come to the realization that the scantily clad samba girls on the float are only ONE genre of costuming in Rio’s Carnival. Sector members are the ones who actually comprise the entire band and each wing has a different costume. These costumes are akin to Mc Farlane, Minshall and even the ostentatious costumes of Trini Revellers to me. However the detail and decoration is theatrical, you can look at these costumes and gather a sense of the theme immediately, the fact that the costumes are only worn for ONE day at the maximum of a few hours affords the designers the flexibility to create costumes that are larger than life. Whereas our costumes in Trinidad for the most part emulate the skimpy samba girls and anything that is too elaborate is seen as cumbersome since we parade our costumes differently; it is two days of street partying for Trinis whereas in Rio it is a much more structured event focusing less on having a good time and more on strict competition:

General rules for participation

You have to have with you and wear all pieces of your costume. Nothing else can be seen with or on you (like other pieces of clothing, bags, cameras etc.) Do not change or substitute any parts of your costume. Most people already arrive in their costumes at their meeting point as there are no changing cabins. If you prefer changing there, just wear some bikinis or shorts and do as some of the locals do and feel free to change in the street.

Be also careful with all your costume items. Do not wear them anywhere before the Parade.

Be careful with the amount of alcohol or any drugs you might take before the parade. If any director of the School or your president notices that you are intoxicated you will not be allowed to parade because you could jeopardize your school's whole year's work.

Video and picture cameras are absolutely forbidden during the Parade, and rightly so, because they could spoil the procession and the glamour of the costume. But nothing and no-one will stop you from taking photographs during the preparation times, still outside the gates, as long as you find somewhere to put your camera before entering the gates (someone with you could keep them for you).

Do co-operate with and follow the instruction given by your president. He/she might prohibit you from parading if he/she finds anything wrong (e.g. with your costume).

During the parade, pay attention to your wing's flow of and cooperate with the stewards. Avoid gathering on only one side or leaving gaps, which can occur if people keep to only one side of the run-way, leaving the other side empty. The wing must parade and proceed in a symmetrical and evenly spread fashion, keeping the lines you formed during the warm-up.

I think the fact that the Samba Schools are allowed to parade in such an organized way through the Sambadrome creates a vivid impact which is relayed around the world. This is what the Savannah Stage was to Trinidad I suppose, an arena to showcase to the public the entire cohesion of your Carnival Band. With mas on the streets this is entirely lost I am afraid and until the coming of the much anticipated Carnival Centre, which mimics Rio’s Sambadrome in design our costumes will continue to be portrayed as a blur of bikinis.

Reading the description of what to expect at Rio’s Carnival I must say that it does not sound like too much fun, exciting yes, since you are in competition and get a chance to observe the entire spectacle from up close but nothing that is as liberating at our “greatest show on Earth!”. There are many rules to adhere to including no alcohol and to me the structure of the Carnival is a bit too rigid being used to “freedom” on the streets of Port of Spain and that is one element in which the two Carnivals vary greatly.

While I do harbour the dream of visiting Rio’s Carnival sometime in the future I am quite happy to enjoy Trinidad’s Carnival; it is all about the excitement leading up to the day for me and the fact that for two days I can let loose from all societal rules and truly let loose in total abandon. From choosing a costume to deciding how I am going to alter it to make it more “me”, the free expression that is uniquely Trinidad’s Carnival translates right through! We can all wear the same costume yet retain an individuality with make up, accessories or even how we choose to dance across the stage. The ONLY rule we need to adhere to is to jump, wave and breakway and that to me is what makes Trinidad's Carnival THE greatest show on Earth.

The following are only a small sample of costumes available for purchase from each of the Samba Schools, to get more information visit the links provided:

G.R.E.S. Mocidade Independente

Unidos do Viradouro

Beija Flor

G.R.E.S. Unidos do Porto da Puerta

G.R.E.S. Sao Clemente

Unidos de Villa Isabel



Unidos da Tijuca

G.R.E.S. Unidos Do Porto Da Pedra

And finally to read more about Rio's Carnival and what takes place visit this website; it is an interesting read if only to compare it to Trinidad's Carnival.
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