Study Abroad Blog: Karla Leon '10 in Brazil

By Karla Leon

Saturday Feb. 21, 2009Oi pessoal! Today I woke up extremely excited. Today is Carnaval in Brazil and I will be part of it… How? I will be performing tonight at 11:35 at the Sambódromo in Sao Paulo. For the ones who don’t know a lot about this, here I go with a little explanation…

Since 1928, Carnaval in Brazil became an organized competition, in addition to all the crazy party that goes on for a week. A lot of people here say that nothing in Brazil really starts until the end of Carnaval… so that explains why I haven’t really had classes these past two weeks… but anyways… In this year (1928) the famous “Escola de Samba” were created, which are schools in the various neighborhoods around the main cities of Rio de Janeiro and later Sao Paulo.

These concentrations practice all year long, they choose a theme, write a song and make choreography. Then during the week of Carnaval (the third week in February) they go to the Sambódromo, which is a big street with stands on the sides for the spectators. This is where they perform one after another. They have one hour to do it. It is a big competition and there are judges who examine every single detail. So you get points or lose points for the quality of the choreography, the song, the costumes; if not all the people are singing and dancing you lose points; if it takes you more than an hour to finish your performance you lose points; if it takes you less than an hour, you lose points… It is intense!!!

All the performances of the parade are organized the same way: on the front we have the Baianas, women from Bahía (another city in Brazil, where Carnaval is very traditional). They have these huge dresses (you can check pictures of this on Picassa, with one of the slideshows on the left). Then we have Alas, so the dancers like me. Every Ala has a themed costume. In between we have the Mestre de Sala and Porta Bandeira. This couple wears the colors of the school and the woman carries the flag of the school. Then we have the Bateria, all the drummers and their queen. More alas and in the end, the Velha Guarda, that is the seniors of the community. There are also big allegoric cars!!!

So now that you have an idea, I’m gonna give you specific details about me! (Click the title of my entry for a surprise). Sabrina Correl (Colby College), Sarah Mercado, Rudy Herrera-Mármol and me (Macalester), Daniel Urgelles (UPenn), Avion Tai (Princeton), Amy Roldán (UColorado) plus Rudy’s host mom, her brother and friend will be dancing with Pérola Negra. This school belongs to Vila Madalena, a neighborhood right next to us. Their theme this year is India, so we will be searching for the sacred pearl there! 😀

“Guiado por Surya pelos caminhos da India em busca da Pérola Sagrada.”

We will be in the ala called, Janaismo with a huge white costume, that you can see on the pic… We will be singing the song that we’ve learned the past weeks, and that you were able to listen after clicking the title, right? Rudy’s mom will have us at her house at 6 so we can start getting ready. Then we will meet the rest of the school at the Metr“ Sumaré, really close to my house. From there we will take a bus and go to our final destination!!

I am really excited!! You guys have no idea! Yesterday at night I couldn’t sleep! I’m just a little nervous that it might rain… then we’re gonna be really hot, and the costume will be a lot more heavy than it already is… But whatever, bring it! I think that if I’d lived here I would for sure do this every single year! Just being at the practice sessions has been amazing. I really have no words to describe how you feel while dancing and singing and jumping up and down with total strangers. The music and the ambience unites people from different backgrounds, at least for the few hours it takes place… It is a whole new experience, and a great one! Because the theme was India this year, on Sunday, the consul from this country visited the school and danced to the beat! It was surreal!

So my friends and fam, wish me luck! I will fo sho let you know more about it…

PS: Tomorrow I am leaving to Florianópolis, and island south of the country. 13 of us rented a house there, where will be chilling, relaxing, partying during the rest of Carnaval… I know, life is hard!

To read more of Karla’s blog, O Sonho Brasilero, visit: http://karlanobrasil.blogspot.com/