Carnaval poster illustration

Viva a sua vida com Samba!

“Live your life with samba!”

This is the month of Carnaval in Brazil, one of my favorite events of the year. Every year, various Samba schools all over Brazilian cities put on an extravagant show that is simply a feast for the eyes, ears and senses. Carnaval is a celebration of life and ‘alegria’ – pure happiness and sensuality of Brazilian culture.

To the untrained eye, watching Carnaval performers at the Sambadrome may seem like a swirl of chaos and color, but there is actually strict order, point-scoring and fierce competition among the various Samba schools that compete each year for the coveted 1st place prize. These performers (which can number into thousands of people per each school) work extremely hard to create incredible floats, costumes and all necessary parts that make up this incredible visual and sensual feast.

Each Samba school starts off its performance with a pair of male (Mestre Sala) and female (Porta Bandeira) dancers who resemble a pair of “birds-of-paradise” – decorated with jewels, robes and feathers. They begin to dance around each other while waving the flag of their respective Samba school.


The rest of the school follows, wheeling giant floats that are decorated towards a particular theme, for example this year the theme for Rio’s carnaval was the fairy tales of Brothers Grimm. The schools then decorate their costumes, floats and other performance items according to the characters found in Grimm fairy tales.

Each float can be incredibly decorated often with painstaking detail and craftsmanship. It really takes your breath away to see the effort, love and determination that these people put into this beautiful craft.


One of this year’s floats at the Rio carnaval was a giant Greek amphorae from the story of Orpheus.

In turn, this classic Greek tragedy was used as a plot for an Oscar-winning 1959 film “Orfeu Negro”, the Black Orpheus – an incredible film that takes place during the Carnaval in 1950s Rio de Janeiro.

Besides the incredible floats and story telling that each Samba school brings to the festival, Carnaval is perhaps most famous for its “rainhas”, or Samba queens. These are the beautiful Samba dancers who train year-round in order to perform their dance at the Sambadrome – the long hallway-like stadiums that host the celebrations. These girls are no joke, their costumes can weigh as much as 40 pounds.


Carnaval is an incredible celebration of color, life, energy, sensuality and alegria – happiness. Saude!


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