Top samba schools strut their stuff at Rio carnival | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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Top samba schools strut their stuff at Rio carnival

art-and-culture Updated: Feb 25, 2009 15:34 IST

IANS
Highlight Story

Six top samba schools at the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro have got members of the public moving to the beat with shows that last until dawn.

The audience Monday included Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The first night of parades of the Special Group schools kicked off with the parade of the Imperio Serrano school entitled The legend of sirens and the mysteries of the sea and closed with the presentation of Unidos da Tijuca and its vision of the fascination that space exercises on the human mind, with the first rays of sunlight.

The outpouring of music, lights and dance at the Marques de Sapucai Sambadrome reached its highest point in the wee hours Monday with the parade of Beija-Flor, which won the greatest applause, notably from Lula.

The president, who wore a print shirt and a Panama hat, arrived at the Sambadrome with his wife Marisa Leticia and some of his cabinet ministers as the Grande Rio samba school was staging the history of France with vast, luxurious floats.

Lula greeted all the schools as they passed but allowed his greatest enthusiasm to show when Beija-Flor danced by with its more than 5,000 members presenting a spectacle about water and the history of personal bathing as an element of bodily hygiene.

Beija-Flor, which has won five of the last six titles at the Rio Carnival, launched its presentation with the story of the bath in ancient Egypt, with pharaohs, fountains and a cascade of water tumbling down a pyramidal float.

The parade of Beija-Flor even induced Brazil's first lady to descend from the presidential box to mix with the revellers, dance and have her picture taken.

Lula is the first Brazilian president to attend the Sambadrome since 1994 when Itamar Franco was present and found himself involved in a scandal by posing next to a model who, as the photos revealed, was wearing no underwear.

In an unusual incident for the parades, the samba singer Neguinho da Beija-Flor called several times over the microphone to Lula, an admirer of this school.

Neguinho, suffering from a cancer that almost kept him from participating in this year's parade, was applauded by the audience. Also unusual was his getting married to fiancee Eliane do Reis at a civil ceremony right in the Sambadrome.

The other schools that paraded on the first night were Vila Isabel, with a show about the 100-year-old Municipal Theater of Rio de Janeiro, and Mocidade, with a tribute to writers Machado de Assis and Joao Guimaraes Rosa.