It’s hard to describe the experience of Brazil’s Carnival party – there’s nothing else on the planet like it. To say that it consumes the country is an understatement – work, life, school all come to a grinding halt during Carnival. The cities and beaches come alive with music, food, and dancing, as the spirit of celebration and excitement crackles in the air.
If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to dance in the Carnival – don’t hesitate for a minute! There’s nothing more exhilarating than being swept up in the brillant lights and waves of glittering bodies swaying, shaking, and pulsating to that vibrant samba beat. For the 30 or so minutes it takes you to dance down the Sambódromo, nothing else exists in the world – it’s truly magical! Be prepared to stay up all night – Carnival doesn’t sleep.
Tourists can participate in the Carnival, but you’ll need to organize early to make sure you’re ticket and costume are in place. Cost can vary depending on which Carnival you want to dance in – some are more expensive than others. The carnival in São Paulo takes place on the Friday and Saturday night of the week of Carnival, as opposed to Rio’s Carnival, which is held on Sunday and Monday night. Whilst tourists are bewitched by the dazzling show, Brazilians are very much aware that Carnival is a fierce competition between participating Samba Schools (Escola de samba)- vying for prestige and a large cash prize. The Samba Schools are judged on ten different performance categories based on their musicality, visual quality, the social integration of revelers, timing, and also quality of story telling.
Carnival is celebrated all over Brazil, but each has a different style/character unique to that part of Brazil. For example, in Bahia (in the Northeast of Brazil) Carnival takes place in the streets (instead of in the Sambódromo like in Rio and Sao Paulo) and and trios elétricos (electrically amplified bands playing atop speaker-laden trucks) whip two million people into a frenzy day and night. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this article on Brazil’s Top 10 Carnival’s.
Having participated in Carnival myself, it is without a doubt one of the most incredible experiences life has to offer.