Enchanted Germany at Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival

The black, red and gold stripes of the German flag will be among the many colours on display at this year’s Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. The Unidos da Tijuca samba school, the winner of last year’s Carnival, is dedicating its 2013 performance to the theme “Alemanha encantada”, enchanted Germany. At the Sambadrome, where the carnival parades take place, the colourful floats display a broad range of motifs, from fairy tales and mythology to literature, theatre and cinema, to Germany’s great technological inventions.

The Unidos performance features Goethe, Bertolt Brecht and the “Blue Angel” label as well as elves, dancing trees, Rapunzel, human rockets and dancers clad as slices of cake.

In the run-up to Carnival, the Goethe-Institut and the German Consulate-General in Rio de Janeiro provided advice and assistance. Some staff members have even been able to join in the parade. Carnival is serious business: the final rehearsals are mandatory for all participants. At weekday evening rehearsals on a street closed to traffic, the dancing participants feel both tired after a day at work and excited for the upcoming Carnival. People get to know those who are dancing in the same “wing”, and after an hour and a half of rehearsal everybody knows the lyrics of the “enredo”, the theme song that is played on a continuous loop: “Come to earth, God Thor, to guide us on a journey through enchanted Germany.”

Click herre to hear the Unidos da Tijuca theme song

Dress rehearsal before the big performance

German beer

German beer
© AA/Baumann

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German beer

German beer

German beer

The dress rehearsal takes place in the Sambadrome on a Sunday night a week before the big performance. The participants meet on Avenida Presidente Vargas, a major thoroughfare in the city centre. There onlookers and street vendors mix with the dancers, who are assigned to a section of the practice area according to the colour of t‑shirt they are wearing. The samba school has a total of 31 wings and eight allegorical floats; there are people in charge of each section of the samba school’s performance.

The samba school’s procession is divided into five sections, each dealing with a different aspect of German culture. Everyone takes their positions, with the wing overseers building up each wing in rank and file and repeatedly counting off. Names are checked off, and nobody who misses today’s rehearsal can march into the famed Marquês de Sapucai (Sambadrome) parade ground in a week’s time. Prussian-style discipline reigns, with up to 4000 people moving and singing to the same beat.

Growing excitement

Even at the dress rehearsal, the stands of the Sambadrome are filled with spectators. An old samba song is played to get people in the mood and the crowd sings along at full volume. Then the musicians strike up the samba school’s anthem to fire up the crowd. Tijuca! It begins to drizzle as the growing excitement shows on all the participants’ faces. Even in the rain, their enthusiasm spreads to the spectators and the many assistants and law enforcement officers present. Silvio, one of many black-clad security guards, claps when the performers complete their 700-metre procession. “Great atmosphere, lovely lyrics, you can be sure Tijuca will place in the top five and earn a spot in the Champions’ Parade once more,” he says. The Champions’ Parade takes place the Saturday after Carnival.

Last updated 10.02.2013

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