Brazil's samba schools want Chinese participation

Updated: 2014-09-01 03:16

By Ji Ye in Rio de Janeiro(China Daily Latin America)

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Brazil's samba schools want Chinese participation

A reveller from Grande Rio samba school participates in the Samba parade of Special Groups at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on March 2. [Xinhua/Xu Zijian]

It is an icon of Brazil's national identity and a symbol of the Brazilian Carnival, one of the world's most flamboyant celebrations. It's the samba, and the director of a samba school believes the celebration and the dance itself can become vehicles for Brazilians to better understand China.

"Although Brazil and China are BRICS countries and cooperate in many ways, most Brazilians still don't know what the real China looks like," said Ricardo Fernandes, director of carnival at the "Grande Rio" samba school.

"Carnival is one of the most popular cultural activities in Brazil. Showing Chinese cultural aspects during Carnival would definitely be the best way to make Brazilians understand China."

And Fernandes wants to work with Chinese enterprises so his school can show the real China by promoting Chinese culture to Brazilians through various forms of choreography and performances in the carnival.

Seldom have Chinese enterprises and symbols of China been involved in the carnival. In 2012, during the carnival in the capital city of Brasilia, a Chinese theme was performed by a samba school sponsored by the Chinese company Huawei Brazil. With a large Chinese "dragon boat" carrying a Chinese palace and Terracotta Warriors, the float received a standing ovation during the parade.

Ronnie Parra, the head of the samba school that performed the Chinese theme in the 2012 carnival said The ancient and innovative Chinese is the core idea of their show, which not only met the desire of Brazilians to know about China, but also had an eye-catching effect during the parade.

Carnival is usually held in February and March each year and it is a large market. This year's carnival in Rio de Janeiro lured 900,000 tourists to stay in the city for the revelry, and generated a revenue of some 2.2 billion reals ($950 million) for the city, according to the Rio Tourism Company (Riotur).

Of that total, $750 million came from tourism, including hotel and restaurant revenue, and the remainder from activities more directly linked to carnival, such as street parades, decorations, other related activities and investment in samba schools.

Echoing the comments by Fernandes of the Grande Rio samba school, Parra said, Although in recent years the relations between China and Brazil become closer and closer, Brazilians still have a poor understanding about the distant and ancient China."

Jayder Soares, the president of Grande Rio, uses the word passion to explain the samba and his school, which was founded in 1988.

Soares also wants to present a Chinese theme in the carnival. He believes that as a symbol of Brazilian culture, the samba could act as a booster to cultural exchanges between Brazil and China. He said he hopes to carry out in-depth cooperation with Chinese enterprises during the carnival, and to have more Chinese elements in his samba school.

The Grande Rio samba school is one of 12 samba schools that will parade in Rio's 2015 carnival. Performances by the schools will be evaluated by 40 jurors, which grade them on band, music, floats, theme and costumes.

Even though there are still six months left before the start of next year's carnival, the Grande Rio samba school has already been in a tense preparation atmosphere due to the fierce competition.

Its training camp is inside the Rio Samba School League. Located between the city center and the port of Rio, the league, also known as "Samba City", is a hub for all the 12 samba schools. From the outside, Samba City looks like a big storage building; gorgeous carnival floats and costumes are stored inside. Every school in Samba City must keep its performance theme a secret before the start of the next carnival.

When carnival ends, all samba schools will spend the whole year preparing for the next one-week long show.

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