By Associated Press Reporter. It is often cited as being one of the best party city's in the world. And with an explosion of music and colour, Rio de Janeiro proved why it receives that moniker during the breathtaking climax of its carnival. Hoards of scantily clad beauty queens and gyrating samba dancers paraded through the streets, dressed in little more than feathers and high heals.
They were battling it out for the coveted position of Queen of the Carnival, which is renowned for being a symbol for youth, beauty and sex.
Sunday night saw six samba schools showcase their mesmerising allegorical pageantry in front of a global television audience of billions, in the highlight of a five-day extravaganza. Scroll down for video. Party time: This float from the Unidos da Tijuca samba school featured almost completely nude men and women dancing on top of giant glasses of beer. Marry me? A dancer professes his undying love for one of the drum girls to rapturous applause from the crowds. Record hopes: The city hoped to attract around 2.
Extravagant: Revellers of Unidos da Tijuca samba school perform during the first night of Carnival parade at the Sambadrome. The first school to perform was Inocentes de Belford Roxo, with a colourful homage to Korean culture on a theme called 'The Seven Confluences of the Han River' to invoke the protection of the ancient Korean wind goddess Yondung Halmoni. Following closely was Salgueiro, with last year's Carnival champion Unidos da Tijuca in toe, who performed ahead of Uniao da Ilha, Mocidade and Portela. Thousands of participants clad in elaborate costumes made their way to Rio's 72,seat open-air Sambodrome, designed by the late star architect Oscar Niemeyer.
Who knows? These dancers appeared to be dressed as angels Sheer Wonder: There was even a Stevie Wonder-themed float with a giant figure of the blind musician at a piano. Well dressed: Apart from the scantily-clad dancers there was also hoards of others dressed in highly elaborate costumes. Diving into the action: Performers from the Uniao da Ilha do Governador school parade on a sea-themed float led by five white dolphins. Hello sailor: It wasn't just the girls who got into the spirit of the festivities.
Serious competition: The epicentre of the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro hosts dance schools' performances that are watched by audiences and judges. The breast party in Brazil: Dressed in little more than feathers and high heels, thousands of women battled it out for the coveted position of Queen of the Carnival, which is renowned for being a symbol of youth, beauty and sex.
Five days of fun: Sunday night saw six samba schools showcase their mesmerising allegorical pageantry before a global television audience, the highlight of a five-day extravaganza.
Doing it for the boys: Male revellers of the Salgueiro samba school skip through the streets in drag. Between the wings there are several floats separating the sections. Most of the floats are pushed by men from the school's community, though some are motorised. The internationally renowned competition between 12 elite samba groups dazzles more than a billion spectators in person and on TV for two days, but it takes nearly a year and hundreds of workers, many of them volunteers, to pull each one together. The public has no idea who builds all this,' said Angelica da Silva Bernardes, one of those working in the warehouse run by the Grande Rio group.
She's a telemarketer who cuts her day job to part-time during the pre-Carnival season to help out her group in the afternoons and evenings. Bernardes is part of an army of dedicated workers who spend their days, and, as Carnival approaches, their nights, designing, welding, carving, cutting, sewing and embroidering, all to create a seamless spectacle for others.
Spectacle: The internationally renowned competition between 12 elite samba groups dazzles more than a billion spectators for two days. Elaborate: Preparation for the show starts months in advance, and each school mobilises thousands of supporters who create the various parts of the school's display.
Unclothed: Some of the performers wear little more than glitter to hide their modesty. Feathers and glitter: A reveller of Portela samba school performs during the first night of Carnival parade. Celebrity style: The Academicos do Salgueiro samba school performed to a paparazzi theme. It's hard work. Grandmothers strain their eyes sewing for hours.
Paint-stained young men in old shorts and flip-flops take naps on ratty pieces of foam laid out between work tables in the wood shops after pushing through the night. In the days leading up to the parade, the intensity revs up, and there are fewer breaks. Directing the madness at Grande Rio's warehouse is Roberto Szaniecki, the 'carnavalesco,' or artistic director, who works in an all-white office on a floor above the work space, surrounded by large computer screens, slick new laptops and a team of architects, graphic designers, clothing designers, theatre set producers and other technical help.
It is from Szaniecki's mind that spring the magnificent creatures being brought to life by workers in the warehouse below. Procession: Various samba schools each have around 3, to 4, performers.
Themed: Each samba school has their own distinct theme. The parades will last five days, from the evening to the next morning. Flying tiger: The Brazilian carnival originated in the 19th century with small street performances but soon evolved into a grand visual feast. Dressed simply in a dark blue polo shirt and grey cargo pants, he sat for an interview at his white desk marked by multiple coffee-cup rings, his nicotine-stained fingers raising yet another cigarette for the deep drags that punctuate his conversation.
Tacked on the wall above his head, poster-size renditions displayed the dozens of glitzy costumes that encompass the group's theme for this year's competition at the Sambadrome, where the schedule called for Grande Rio to take the floor at am on Tuesday.
It's all just absorbed together with the information in the song, translating into an idea, an impression in the mind of the people watching. Bossa nova: Performers from the Uniao da Ilha do Governador school played hundreds of musical instruments as they walked.
Addicted to fun: Many of those dedicated to the roller-coaster of Carnival preparations describe it as an 'irresistible addiction'. Fiery climax: The first school to perform was Inocentes de Belford Roxo, with a colorful homage to Korean culture. Happy snap: Performers from the Academicos do Salgueiro samba school paraded second in line.
Floats: Between the wings there are several floats separating the sections. Long time in the making: It takes nearly a year and hundreds of workers, many of them volunteers, to pull the spectacular show together. In spite of the dreamlike aspect of the procession, the creative process is very planned and meticulous, Szaniecki said.
The materials, colours, even the equipment used, are all specified in instructions. Carnival means a lot to Cariocas, as Rio's residents are known. It must be taken seriously, he said. It's a message we send about who we are. Grande Rio chose a controversial theme this year: the benefits that cash derived from offshore oil drilling bring to Rio. The revenues, disputed by other inland states, must be invested in the safety infrastructure and health clinics that are essential for Rio residents, the group's song argues.
The Portela group, which has won the most honours at the Sambadrome over the years, chose this year to honor Madureira, the north side neighbourhood where it was born nearly a century ago.
The group reached back in history to the days when sugar was king and vast plantations covered the state. School of rock: The Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel samba school turned their float into a tribute to music with a Statue of Liberty playing an electric guitar. Tire-ing: Some dancers were forced to work much harder than others like these performers who had to carry model cars in the parade. Complex task: Despite of the dreamlike aspect of the procession, the creative process is very planned and meticulous.
Golden girl: A reveller of Academico do Salgueiro samba school performs on top of a float, left, and performers from the Inocentes de Belford Roxo samba school parade, right.
Che reaction: Performers from the Academicos do Salgueiro samba school wear clothes covered with the face of Che Guevara. Different themes: Themes of each float vary hugely, from Viking mythology, left, to Halloween, right. Jorge Gomes, a construction worker in the off-season, worked through lunch on a recent day affixing gold lame to a Portela float representing a sugar cane farm, complete with a fancy 19th century carriage, luxuriant green stalks rising 15 feet 4.
Many of those dedicated to the roller-coaster of Carnival preparations describe it as Gomes did: an irresistible addiction.
The tension of not knowing if it will all come together in time, followed by the great blow-out that is the parade, makes them feel alive in a way nothing else does. Those who love this can't stop themselves from returning, year after year, in spite of the exhaustion, the cost and the time eaten up in the process, said Claudio Schneider, a hairdresser who stops working every August to dedicate himself exclusively to being an 'aderecista' responsible for the decorations that top the floats.
He doesn't return to hair until after February. There is no money that pays for that kind of dedication. He also was taking part in the parade this year, one of the plumed figures in the group's procession.
Gomes' life also revolves around Portela. He has been building floats since he was 13, and has developed a technique for carving in plastic foam.
Over the years, however, he's learned to do any job needed, he said as he explained with pride of ownership the step-by-step of putting a float together. Modest: Not everyone wore next to nothing at the show as these revellers of Portela samba school reveal.
Duke box: Performers from the Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel samba school sing and dance to a duke box theme. First, a metal structure is fabricated to provide the 'bones' of the float, he said. Then come the basic wooden blocks, which need to be sturdy enough to hold dozens of costumed samba-dancing participants for hours.
Then the elaborate decorations - fibreglass or plastic foam sculptures, which must be draped in cloth, painted or embroidered. Unlike Schneider, Gomes seldom joins in the parade, preferring to watch from the stands so he doesn't miss any of the show. He confessed that he cries when he sees his work debut on the parade ground.
The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline. Share this article Share. In a spin: Revellers of the Salgueiro samba school show off their twirling. Extravagant: The floats are so elaborate that some take all year to build.
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