All About Samba Parades
All about the parades

All about Samba ParadesEach Samba School represents a different neighborhood or a social club. The grand Carnival parade is not a simple parade, but a competition among the schools in which the music, lyrics, themes, choreography and costumes are at stake. Schools present themselves along the Sambadrome with thousands of participants split into sections of dancers, musicians and floats.

The preparation starts as early as March or April of the previous year. Each Samba School mobilizes thousands of supporters to create the various aspects of the School's show. A theme is chosen, the music is written, costumes are created, floats are built, while the "carnavalesco" (the carnival designer) sets the choreography. By December, rehearsals begin and by Christmas, the sambas are recorded and released to record shops.

When the parading day at the Sambadrome finally comes, Schools must present their long awaited show within a strict span of time: between 65 to 85 min. They will be judged by more than 40 judges spread along the avenue who allocate points according to specific criteria.


These are some of the criteria which the Schools are judged for:

  • enredo (plot or theme):
    • This is the general theme that motivates the whole presentation of a School. It has to be clear and understandable. Enredos change from year to year.

  • samba-enredo (samba plot):
    • Samba is a general denomination for a type of rhythmic music derived from the African influence in Brazil and typical of urban Rio. It's meant to be sung and danced. Samba-enredo is a samba-song that tells a story, a plot derived from the main theme of the School.

  • bateria (percussion):
    • It's the pulse, the beating of the School. It has to sustain the rhythm that drives the School's song and dance. Each Samba School has from 250 to 350 percussionists.

  • harmonia (harmony):
    • Refers to the degree of synchronicity among the bateria (percussion), the singing of all members and the dancing of the thousands of passistas (samba dancers). Sambarmeans "to dance to the samba music".

  • evolução (evolution):
    • Refers to the quality of the dance and to the way it evolves in tune with the rhythm of the music and the beat of the percussion. This is translated by the choreography, thepassistas (samba dancers) skills and the general enthusiasm of all School members.

  • alegorias e adereços (allegories and ornaments):
    • The gigantic and richly decorated floats carry some of the figuras de destaque, that is, celebrities or personalities to which the School pays homage. Usually they are famous TV people or sports idols invited to wear the Schools costumes. There can't be more than 8 floats per School. Floats are judged by their beauty and creative concept.

  • porta-bandeira e mestre-sala (the flag bearer and the master of ceremony):
    • This couple is of great importance for the School. The School's flag bearer is a woman and her male scort is the master of ceremony. She carries the flag and he shows his dance abilities. Their special choreography must present all their lightness and nimbleness, sometimes almost ballet-like.

  • comissão de frente e alas (front commission and wings):
    • Traditionally a School's board of directors marches at the head of the parade, often accompanied by TV stars or sports idols. Next, comes the comissão de frente, a group of 10 to 15 people in costume which opens open the parade introducing the theme of the School and performing an original choreography. The bulk of the other members comes behind them, distributed in different alas (wings).Each wing is composed by hundreds of people wearing the same costume, which is related to a point of the Samba plot.

  • ala das baianas (bahian ladies wing):
    • Traditionally each School has one. It usually comes in the middle or the end of the parade. It is a wing with hundreds of women, usually elderly ladies, dressed in round large skirts in remembrance of the Bahian former slaves, who introduced many of the traditions of Rio Carnival. During the year these ladies work for the Samba Schools sewing and making the costumes.

  • fantasias (costumes):
    • Costumes are judged by their originality and beauty. Their colors are as usual the traditional ones adopted by each School.