This Carnaval we experienced the Sambadrome from a different perspective – we were part of the show. Our practices with the well known samba school Unidos da Tijuca began back in December. We met once a week in blocked off streets behind their facilities in Rio’s Santo Cristo neighborhood to walk, dance, and sing – rain or moon shine.
Every practice was a street party with food and beverage vendors and spectators lining our route. It was fun moving in a river of yellow and blue Unidos da Tijuca Carnaval shirts, it’s the most local we’ve felt since moving to Rio. We were divided into groups called aulas and our group leaders taught us a few simple movements to go with certain song lyrics, but mostly they encouraged us to sing loud and keep our lines straight as we free-styled down the street.
A few weeks before Carnaval, Unidos da Tijuca had a practice run through the Sambadrome. The stars, the school’s trained samba dancers, are awesome!
On parade night we hired a van with a friend to carry us and our huge costumes to the Sambadrome. Tijuca’s theme was American music through the years. My husband and I were Woodstock, with huge Hendrix-esq afro/scarf hats, Sgt Pepper’s coats, and feathered peace symbols strapped to our backs. The costume was hot and HEAVY, so glad the parades are at night. We also had friends in Ragtime, Heavy Metal Rock, and HipHop. I walked around snapping a few photos of costumes and floats as we lined up for our turn.
We were scheduled to go on at 1:30am but it was closer to 2 when we started moving. Sadly, a top section of a float near the beginning of the parade collapsed, injuring a few people. As our group entered the Sambadrome and had to squeeze around the stalled float, we knew something was wrong but didn’t know what – we kept singing and dancing our way through (the show must go on). What a wild feeling looking up into the stands at the thousands of people watching – this was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for us.
Unidos da Tijuca’s song 2017