I was undergoing a plethora of mixed feelings and emotions on the flight to Rio. On one
hand there was great excitement and at the same time I was apprehensive. This was a trip I had been looking forward to for the past four years especially after watching footages of the world famous Rio carnival on television – The color, energy, dance, music, mayhem and revelry was exhilarating. At the same time a lot of friends tried to dissuade me from going to Rio because of the rise in crime. They painted gory pictures of people drugging me and stealing my kidneys and leaving me stranded on the streets of Rio. However the excitement scored over apprehension and here I was on the flight to Rio De Janeiro-the River of January.
I landed in Rio a day before the Carnaval (Carnival) and the welcome we got was
phenomenal – Picture exquisitely dressed Samba dancers waiting at the airport dancing
and welcoming all passengers. There was merriment right from the word go. Our lovely
host had an apartment at Ipanema, which is Rio’s most sophisticated neighborhood and
also the birthplace of Bossa Nova. Our host was a true Carioca. People who live in Rio
are referred to as Cariocas.
We checked in to the cozy little duplex apartment and enquired about how we could
participate in the Carnaval and be a part of a Samba school parade. The next morning we were on our way to meet a representative of Acadamico De Rocinha (Samba Dance
Academy) who immediately got our costume trials done and was actually kind enough to give us a tour of the workshops where the floats were being built and that in itself was a revelation. There were 6 floats in the workshop and they were about 15-20 feet high. Each of the floats were off different themes and were intricately detailed with glass work, paper mache, fiber glass, foam, tinsel, feather, plaster Of paris, etc.
Right after our costume trials we were off to Ipanema beach to soak in the sun and what a sight it was - men and women with bodies made to perfection swarming the beach and displaying their vollying skills. We just lay on the beach getting accustomed to unlimited access to Skol beer and Caipirinihas – the Brazilian drink.
The next morning we took the cab to Corcovado to see the statue of Cristo Redentor
(Christ the Redeemer, about a 100 feet tall), which has been recently nominated as one of the New 7 wonders of the world. It was truly breath taking with its presence over looking the panoramic view of Rio.
At sunset we were received by the craziest Bloco (street party) ever which ushered in the
Carnival (carnival). Carnival in Brazil is time to let your spirit fly. Its an ‘illusion factory’
where you can be who ever you fantasize. Thousands of revelers hit the streets of
Ipanema following Live Samba bands playing music. It was one big Costume party –
Cross dressers, nurses, hookers, vampires, devils, angels…the list just goes on. The poor
and the rich, tourists and locals, straight and gay people come together in a scene of
frenzy and harmony to demonstrate joy, pleasure, luxury and sensualism. It was a ritual
filled with symbolism.
And by 11pm we were off to the Sambodromo (a Promenade specially created for the
Carnaval Parade) to witness the biggest spectacle on Earth – a 2-day championship
during which 13 top schools who have carefully prepared and worked tirelessly through
the year comprising of 1000s of artists, fashion designers, artisans and volunteers
compete with each other. The result of such an effort is not only seduce the jury but also the millions of viewers that are either at the Sambodromo or watching it live on TV.
Glamorous hand made costumes, creative lyrics, melody, choreographies, huge floats and the heartbeats of countless percussionists make the crowds go crazy. We had to undergo an excruciatingly painful and sweaty wait for about 4 hours in our heavy costumes but soon it was 4 am and it was time for us start our parade and once we entered the Samba Drome, it was a different world all together. Wow! Dancing in the Rio carnival is something every one should go through.
Another must see is a Soccer game at the Maracana. Soccer is to Brazil what Cricket is to
India. The Maracana football stadium is Latin America’s largest stadium built in the
1950’s for the Soccer World Cup.
An experience which one should not miss while in Rio is the night life at Lapa, which is
Rio’s party central a one time red light area now in a complete transformation as the
Party center of Rio decked with cafes, bars, restaurants, blocos street parades and
hawkers thronging the streets. Every local here knows to dance the Samba De Gafiera or
The next few days we took the one-day tours to Ilha Grande and Buzios Island about 3-4
hours bus rides out side of Rio. Boat rides to remote islands, turquoise blue waters, white sands, peace and tranquility.
A week of Rio was not only an inversion of reality but also a path to self discovery and
liberation, a true spectacle on earth. RIO- A place to live for, a place to die in.
Yes, I got back with both my Kidneys in place.
Yes, if you would want to be seduced by the samba join me for some personal lessons at the Lourd Vijay's Dance Studio (LVDS) - www.lvds.in