Samba music suddenly blasts through the speakers and the crowd goes wild.
On the Sambadrome’s runway, the Carnival king and queen appear in their shimmering diamond-studded costumes, dazzling the audience with their fast-as-lightning samba moves. Behind them are troupes of costumed dancers: young girls decked out in silver dresses, gym-pumped men adorning brown feather headdresses, sexy ladies dressed in glitzy rhinestone bikinis — all gyrating to the same rhythm.
Surrounded by a sea of dancing people, I find myself shaking my hips and singing along with the crowd. Indeed, I haven’t stopped moving for days – or nights. I’m drained from the partying around-the-clock and dancing to the beats of the Brazilian bandas, but I’m still not ready to stop. For it is not everyday that I get to be part of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, the world’s biggest carnival.
Carnaval in Brazil
Carnaval (known as Carnival in English) is a massive event in Brazil, and it is celebrated throughout the country – from the Amazon to the coast of the Bahia. While customs, celebrations and costumes vary by region and city, Rio de Janeiro’s Carnaval is the biggest and flashiest.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro is the Sambadrome desfile (samba parade), otherwise known as “one of the biggest shows on Earth”. What originally started as a series of samba street parades is now a fierce competition among top samba schools from Brazil. These samba schools are huge social entities, with over 3,000 to 5,000 members, including some famous celebrities making special appearances.
This year’s samba parade began on 28th February and ended on Fat Tuesday, 4th March. I was fortunate enough to get last minute tickets for one evening and the show completely blew my mind with the sheer magnitude of the performance, the impalpable energy of its people and the infectious atmosphere. It was definitely the most impressive parade I’ve seen and – I believe – will ever see.
To give you an idea of just how impressive the parade was, here are some of my best photos from the night.
Beautiful samba dancers dressed in elaborate costumes perform on a float
In the hands of a giant
Young girls also participate in the parade
Samba dancers are often decked out in high strappy heels, large headdresses and feathery wings
In purple pursuit
Some costumes can be pretty outrageous
Women dancing in traditional Bahian wear
Giving a modern twist to Carnival
There are so much colors and glitter that I don’t know where to look
The float with an African theme
Gorgeous samba dancers
Performers include famous celebrities
This was one of the most impressive floats
The samba school had ‘favela’ as their theme
This float unfortunately crashed into the photographers’ raised platform and the head fell off.
An animal-themed float