HE Greatest Show on Earth is that magnificent parade of gyrating body parts and spectacular moveable feast that is Carnival in Brazil. This annual tradition takes place for four days before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.
Rio de Janeiro is where you will find the most dazzling display of samba performers, musical artists and costumed revelers. For five months before Carnival, the cariocas (people of Rio) get together every Friday and Saturday night to rehearse their role in this grand celebration.
There are different samba schools (or groups) which compete in Carnival. I visited a rehearsal of the Portela samba school in the northern Madureira district of Rio where an endless rhythm of music and dance began at 11 at night.
Powered by a robust group of bateria (percussionists), a couple hundred local residents checked all inhibition at the door as they assembled to practice their seductive moves in the outdoor stadium. I marveled how the thunderous beat of the drums ignites a spark of energy in your legs that dispels all proscription.
You lose control of your limbs as your arms swing to the heavens, feet swish and sway, and your butt, with a mind of its own, is set in motion up and down, this way and that, making moves you wouldn’t dream of doing outside the boudoir.
Being basically an introvert, this wallflower suddenly discovered his own body in motion. You can’t help tapping your feet, swinging your hips, simply allowing yourself to be captivated by the loud mesmerizing drumbeat. My feet took on a life of their own
As the percussion continues to fuel a collective flow of fiery emotion, the dancers seem to compete frenetically with each other as they bend and twist and move their butt to the beat.
The inexhaustible dancers continued their combustible gyrations well into the early morning hours. I left at 1 a.m. exhausted simply by watching this whirlwind of energy. The people will be coming back every weekend to rehearse their techniques and prepare for Carnival in Rio. I can only advise you to reserve now for your own place in the sun.
To see a samba show call Platform in Leblon, (55 21) 2274-4022 or 2274-4115, or visit www.plataforma.com.