RIO DE JANEIRO – Only at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Sambadrome is it possible to evoke on a single night characters like Michael Jackson while recreating the inferno of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy.”
The six top-rated samba schools that opened the Sambadrone parades demonstrated once more that the Carnival of Rio is the greatest show in earth.
For more than eight hours, 19,200 musicians and dancers paraded on the track, either on foot or riding one of the 36 amazing floats that moved at the rhythm of the samba, on a night that began with a downpour and the bad omen of an accident that injured eight people, at least three of them seriously.
The Paradise of Tuiuti group opened the Rio Carnival with a tribute to the artistic movement Tropicalia, but would find it hard to continue in the elite category of the great samba schools after the accident.
Its last float went out of control as it was starting around the Sambadrome’s 700-meter (765-yard) track, crashed into a balcony alongside, and when the driver tried to back it up, ran over several people.
The parades were halted for an hour while the injured were taken to nearby hospitals, then started up again with the Great Rio group paying tribute to Bahia, the Brazilian state that most maintains its African culture.
The third group was called Leopold’s Empress, but its theme – the preservation of the Amazon region’s environment and culture – had annoyed a significant sector of Brazilian politicians and big agriculture.
The Vila Isabel school mobilized 3,000 people to celebrate Africa’s musical legacy, from the United States to Argentina, paying homage to the likes of Michael Jackson and Tina Turner on a monumental float.
The Salgueiro group offered a trip to Dante’s inferno, with a mass of dancers ablaze with vivid colors, while the young woman who played Dante’s love Beatriz wore a costume that left her mostly naked, though made up of 3,500 feathers and weighing 25 kilos (55 lbs.)
The Hummingbird school, with a record number of Sambadrome wins, closed the show with a romantic story by Jose de Alencar about “the virgin with lips of honey.”