Even if you can’t dance, we promise you won’t be able to control your legs once you enter the famous sambadrome in Rio and join the carnival fiesta!
Even if a school doesn’t succeed, it won’t be stopped from competing next year. In fact, the “fight” might get ferocious as we’re talking serious money here. And although some elements of the samba schools’ financing system is highly controversial (e.g. it is said that among the sponsors who contribute financially to schools are drug lords operating in Rio favelas), no doubt the carnival preparations, especially producing the costumes and the floats, provide work and wages for thousands of the poorest among Rio residents.
The easiest way to take part in the fiesta is to buy a ticket. And probably the cheapest, too. Albeit not cheap at all. Although the most inexpensive tickets are sold for less than 20 USD, the scalping business makes sure you’ll pay more. At least fifteen times, to be precise. The tickets can be obtained in every tourist agency around Rio, and for the good seats start from 300 USD. Fortunately, there are cheaper solutions, and we will write about them below.
For ambitious adventure seekers, there’s a possibility of actual participation in the parade. Which means dancing the samba on the parade ground. Wearing a costume. Awesome, right? Right, but it comes with a catch: you have to pay for it. A lot. Not less than 200 USD but can be more, depending on a costume. Which brings us to the bright side: you can actually choose an outfit, and it doesn’t have to be thongs and feathers. To see your options google the subject, you’ll get directed to the professional agencies selling packages (costumes + rehearsals + participation).
Choosing the seating at the Sambadrome depends mostly on your wallet. For example, the most expensive tickets are Camarotes, sold for a couple of thousand dollars. They include a complete VIP service with food buffets and drinks. But the most popular are Grandstands, located at the top of each sector. They don’t have allocated seating, but they provide the best view from above. And even if you don’t find any space to seat it doesn’t matter, as you won’t have time to seat. You’ll be busy dancing samba!
The sectors vary in price – the most expensive are the middle ones, as you can easily see the opening of the parade as well as finishing. The best of them are sectors 7 and 8 due to their strategic location close to the judges (the schools put on their best show when they reach the spot).
Built in 1984, the sambadrome is, in fact, a 700-meter-long street with concrete bleachers spread along its both sides. It was specially designed as a permanent parade ground by a visionary Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer.
Although the official carnival parades are held once a year, usually in February (depending on Easter, which is a moveable feast), and last for a couple of nights only, the sambadrome gets busy many weeks before the carnival – this is where the samba schools rehearse their shows before the actual competition.
During the parade, each school has about 90 minutes to move from one end of the sambadrome to another, which is a significant logistic achievement considering the fact that it may consist of more than 3,000 performers trying to stay tuned to the rhythm of their orchestra and speed of the elaborate giant floats. Each night the shows are rated by judges, and one school is declared a winner. Subsequently, five best schools take part in the Parade of Champions, which is the main goal of each participant.
If you decide to buy an extremity sector, we would advise the one towards the end of the parade. When you seat at the beginning, you’ll be seeing the dancers from behind for most of the time.
For poker minds, we propose to buy a ticket from a scalper right before the parade. Or even better – when it’s already in progress and chances to find buyers drop dramatically. You might get a very good seat for a very small fee. This is how we got our sector 7 for one-fourth of its price. But then again, you might not get it at all…
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