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When people think of Rio de Janeiro, they instinctively envision the world-famous Carnaval with its fantastic float-filled parade. Everything that is Carnaval really begins with the Samba schools ,which one can find located throughout Rio. Samba Schools are truly worth a visit during the important pre-Carnaval rehearsal period, which starts generally in August and goes on until the final week just before the actual parade.
Most schools hold samba-rehearsals on Saturday nights, but there are some schools that rehearse on other nights, like Beija-Flor, Viradouro and Portela, on Thursdays and Friday nights. Today, Unidos da Tijuca samba-schools even provides a workshop on how to play samba- instruments during the off-carnival season. They explain how the carnival production is done behind the scenes, through a carnival work-shop, a really cool attraction.
An option for those wanting to see some samba, but are in Rio before the rehearsals starts (around June / July), is going to their "feijoada lunches" - you can get the idea on the music and also eat the main Brazilan dish, in an afternoon. Every samba school has theirs, on fixed dates, like the one at Portela happens on the first Saturday of the month; Mangueira is on the second Saturday of the month; Salgueiro on the second Sunday of the month and Império Serrano on the third Saturday of the month. Several other samba-schools are seeing a niche here and have their own schedule of Feijoadas.
Traditionally, from August to October, the schools choose their "samba enredo", or Samba theme song, which is the music they take to the Grand Carnaval parade in February. The selection of the music is very important to the school. Depending on the samba school, up to 20 "samba enredos" can be entered into this competition.
Photo By Alexandre Vidal - FOTO BR
By October, with the Samba Enredo having been chosen, the true samba- rehearsals begin. This means that the same music is played for hours and hours during each rehearsal. The purpose of these rehearsals is for all members to learn the "samba enredo" and for the musicians to play it flawlessly.
From December up to Carnaval, there are "dress rehearsals", although not everyone uses their costumes. This is the best period to visit a Samba School. These rehearsals at the Sambadrome are held 2 or 3 times per each samba-school, and are open to the public. They are free! See below the formal explanation of the Rio Carnival technical rehearsals.
In the 2 months leading up to Carnaval, each school is allowed to use the Sambodromo to practice their parade. There are no floats and no costumes in these Sambodromo practices, but this might be an interesting show for those who are unable to see the actual parade.
For devoted Carnaval fans, it is possible to purchase a Samba School costume and participate in the actual Carnaval parade.