Rio de Janeiro ended this year’s carnival parade in style today, wowing a capacity crowd of 60,000 revellers with a samba act celebrating Brazil’s African roots.
The samba group Beija Flor – “hummingbird” in English – paraded its float featuring a gilded hummingbird surrounded by leaping impalas, with performers in giant elephant and giraffe suits in addition to the usual elaborately plumed and barely clothed dancers.
Rio’s samba parades are the centerpiece of carnival in Brazil. Over the course of two nights, the city’s 13 premier groups mount opulent 80-minute parades involving hundreds of drummers, thousands of dancers and lavish floats.
Each group spends up to £500,000 (€740,000) on the parade in an attempt to be declared champion – a distinction that brings little more than bragging rights.
Beija Flor Is heavily favoured to win the coveted championship in voting tomorrow and was declared the popular winner by two local newspapers.
The Porto da Pedra group opened the second night of parading, sending 3,500 dancers into the Sambadromo stadium singing the praises of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela.
The parade included a giant float featuring a black-and-white tiger, backed by towering African dolls spinning in place. Behind the float, 250 women in hoop skirts spun like dervishes.
Featured dancer Angela Bismarchi wore body paint and a tiara containing three South African diamonds that the group said required her to be accompanied by 12 security guards.
“It took them eight hours to paint me up like this,” Ms Bismarchi said.
During the parade Ms Bismarchi lost her G-string. Directors provided her with a thong and she kept dancing, but it could harm the group’s chances in the competition, which prohibits nudity.
Carnival is celebrated around the world from Europe to Haiti to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras and runs to the start of Lent, the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter observed by Christians as a season of fasting and penitence. Excess and revelry are the point of carnival, which culminates on the aptly named Fat Tuesday.
But Brazil is perhaps unique in the world as a nation of continental proportions where nearly everyone drops everything for four days to celebrate.