Parading in Rio's Carnaval is the most exhilarating rush of good energy and bliss I have ever experienced. I knew it would be powerful, however I didn't know how much I would be overcome with emotion. I was so excited and happy when we entered the stadium that was jam packed with people singing our school's samba, that I felt my eyes water and I paused for a moment as we made our way into the parade and just let myself breathe it all in.
The energy in the stadium is like nothing I ever felt before. A wave of vibrant carnaval spirit is contagious and once you enter into the parade you become part of a communal spirit and are riding that wave of positive light energy. The energy washes over you, and you have no choice but to be present.
All worries and troubles disappear.
Monday Feb. 16th I paraded with Samba School: União da Ilha do Governador, around 2am in the Sambadromo/Sapucai (Samba stadium) in Rio's Carnaval along with about nine ladies from SambAZ team from Arizona, and a few ladies from San Francisco and Los Angeles. The lovely Ana Laidley invited us all to be part of the parade this year, and it is an invitation that nobody can refuse.
It was one of the markers of this year for me as I start this new chapter in my life as an empowered woman going for my dreams.
I'm blessed that Ana Laidley invited me to be part of the parade this year and I am so glad I decided to make it happen. I am also so grateful to my mom and grandmother for giving me a ticket to Rio for my 28th birthday, as I had recently put all my savings into finishing my first Samba instructional DVD, Brazilian Samba Basics.
Everyone asks, "Is it all you imagined it would be?" And my answer is " YES! It's pure magic! Hands down the best party I have ever been to." It truly is the most powerful sense of joyful energy I have ever experienced.
It was the best experience I have had as a Samba dancer. I felt so honored and lucky to be there, experiencing the Carnaval spirit like never before.
I have been a part of Carnaval in Salvador Bahia before, and that was an incredible experience, however this was truly unique and completely different...the two really can't be compared.
Carnaval's parade is a "sambista's dream come true" as there is nothing greater for the Sambista than performing with a bateria (band) of several hundred musicians and hundreds of other dancers and carnaval artists all singing and dancing to your school's Samba Enredo (Samba theme song).
The schools all have their own theme for the parade and a story they are telling about the history of the world through Samba. It is like watching a moving opera, every section of the parade tells part of the story. As you watch you see a whole theatrical performance performed in the form of the parade.
I have watched Carnaval on TV for years, and even more recently streaming on my laptop, but never had I understood the magnitude of the artistry, hard work and beauty that transcends all obstacles in the way that I learned to appreciate it being there in the Sapucai.
Before we entered the parade we waited on the streets of down town Rio, which at night are notoriously dangerous and impoverished. As we waited I watched as several groups of young boys, 6 years and up "played" and ran the streets pick pocketing and taking anything they could from bystanders, many people would be taking pictures with their phones of the floats that had not yet entered the parade, and the kids would snatch the phone out of their hands. It was hard to watch, as the kids were working so hard, stealing and running as fast as their little feet could carry them, and though it looked as if they were enjoying the thrill, I couldn't help but feel their sadness, as they feel pushed to steal as their means of support and take because they do not have. As I watched over and over, the kids pretend to play hide and go seek, and then spread out and take all that they could, I took it as a reminder of where all the energy of Carnaval comes from, and that is from the not having, from the place of being disenfranchised and disadvantaged, and it reminded me to be grateful for all that I have and to dance and let go of all that I could in Carnaval, transforming the negative into positive, dancing letting go, dancing allowing joy to come in it's place.
You see the Joy of Carnaval is a beauty that transcends the reality of every day life. Carnaval is a time to transform the darkness into the light, the negative into the positive.
Before the parade Ana informed us that Adriana Van Lima a beautiful Samba dancer we had met early in the week had gotten word that her cancer had returned, this time to her brain and she would not be dancing or attending the parade. She had been helping prepare our school to parade but recently had not been feeling well. Ana told us to dance for her, and with much respect and love, we did. I overheard some of the Samba leaders talking before the parade and their spirits were low, they were all so sad to hear the news. And yet again I saw everyone light up as we entered the gates of the Sambadromo and started to dance. Samba and Carnaval is healing energy, it brings you up if you are down and allows you to connect into a collective pure joy. It's not about the individual, but about being a part of a community and bringing everyone’s spirit together.
I plan to parade again next year, and to learn more about what Carnaval means, it's history and see how it changes. After all, Samba & Carnaval is more than just a dance & parade...it's a way of life! Samba! Just do it!
Watch the parade:
Our theme was Beleza Pura, Pure Beauty from the inside out. This Year União da Ilha won for best Samba enredo theme song!