It does take long for the Rio Carnival fever to spread through the city once King Momo is handed the key to the city by the mayor and begins to samba. The Sambodromo is where the main competition takes place and you get to witness the most enchanting performances by thousands of musicians and dancers. The Access Group begin the competitive side of events on Carnival Friday and Saturday with samba schools vying for a spot in the next year’s Special Group. Carnival Sunday and Monday are the two nights when celebrations reach its peak with the top 12 samba schools in Rio turning up with a spectacle of floats, costumes, and Latin beats that keep the crowd on their feet. For the locals the Carnival is a way of expressing how proud they are of their community and culture to the rest of the world. Many visitors get into the act of dancing and singing at parades in Rio as well.
While there are many types of samba parades in Rio, the competition at the Sambodromo is spread over 5 nights. The parade begins every year with the Access Group Parade, followed by performances by the second day of Access Group on Carnival Saturday, the Special Group on Carnival Sunday and Monday, and Children’s Parade on Carnival Tuesday. Every school prepares hard throughout the year to put up the largest spectacle at what they formally call ‘recreative gatherings’ and do their best to find favor with the panel of 40 judges.
On Carnival Friday and Saturday the Access Group set the Sambodromo ablaze with some riveting performances that begin at 9 pm. This is the first night of competition where 14 samba schools contend for a spot in the Special Group the next year. The cariocas are out in large numbers in support of their favorite school so you can expect to have an exciting time until the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Carnival Sunday and Monday are the two nights when you have the opportunity to witness the most spectacular parades in Rio. The top 12 samba schools captivate the 80,000 spectators with their samba performances. 6 schools parade on February 23rd while the next six hit the runway at the Sambodromo on February 24th, 2020. The party begins at 8 pm and the last school usually enters the stadium before sunrise. The luxury suites are packed with celebrities that come to support their favorite samba school. Carnival tickets for these two days will allow you to witness popular samba schools like Salgueiro, Mangueira, Beija Flor, Grande Rio, and Mocidade enthrall the crowds with the delightful music and dance steps.
On Carnival tuesday, February 25th, the children take center stage at the Sambodromo from 5 pm. These kids from the samba schools have entertained families at the Carnival for over three decades and are equally capable of giving the adult performers a run for their money. Entry to the Sambodromo is free on this night, although you can expect to enjoy every performance that is complete with costumes, floats, and samba dancers. Over 2000 children take part in the program that is well organized under adult supervision.
The results for the Special Group competition are declared on Ash Wednesday and the top six samba schools prove to the world their position at the top once more at the Sambodromo on Saturday, February 29th, 2020. The teams may have stamped their authority on the samba strip but put up an equally scintillating performance as they bid adieu to their supporters until the next year. Samba Parade tickets for this event are less expensive and if you haven’t had the privilege of being at the Sambodromo on competition nights, this is one of the parades in Rio you ought not to miss.
Samba schools have the task of developing songs, and creating dance moves, costumes, and floats in order to compete for the title of best school. The schools are awarded points by a panel of 40 judges. They are judged on their costumes, dancers, floats, samba song, percussion band, the flow of the parade, theme of the year, the Flag Bearer, Vanguard Group, and overall impression, which is recent times have been the cause for many a controversy. The school with the lowest points is relegated to the lower group of samba schools while the one with the highest scores in the Access group is moved up to the Special Group. Each school is awarded points on a scale of 5 to 10 in each category. The samba drummers are the ones to set the tempo for the night. These drummers are skilled at setting rhythms that send the crowds into a frenzy. The judges keep a keen ear on their performances as the drummers are egged on by a bevy of sensuous samba dancers.
For centuries, samba songs have always contained meaningful lyrics and lilting melodies, which is what the judges like to hear from each samba school. Points are given for harmony and the manner in which the tune blends with the theme. Another important aspect that judges watch for is the pace at which the schools parade down the runway. Much of the electrifying performances by the schools can be attributed to the visual appeal which comes from the costumes and intricately designed sets according to the school’s theme. Here the judges are keen to reward the schools with as much points as possible due to the hard work that goes into the making of the costumes and floats. Points are also awarded to the Vanguard Commission, the group of 12 dancers that lead the samba school onto the runway. Celebrities are often a part of this group. They are followed by the flag bearer and her escort who are among the best samba dancers in the school. The decisive factor in the championship title is the points awarded for overall impression, where every judge’s opinion could vary depending on their tastes.
The Rio Sambodromo has been renovated in time for the 2020 Carnival parades in Rio. An 80,000 strong crowd is expected to throng the stadium on every night of the festivities. There are seating arrangements to suit every budget. Tickets for Carnival Sunday and Monday when the top 12 samba schools perform are the most expensive. Entry for the Access Group is less expensive although the level of entertainment is as high as the two big days. The Sambodromo is divided into sectors with each sector accommodating a grandstand with free seating, frisas or open boxes, and luxury suites in a few sectors that are the most sought after by the rich and famous from around the globe.