RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL (FEBRUARY 27, 2017) (REUTERS) – With a bright fireworks display lighting up the night sky, Rio’s top samba schools stepped to the beat as they began their renowned parade competition in the Sambadrome.
The energy was high as Tuiuti School started the parade with drums beating and costumes aflutter.
At least one participant was overcome by the heat and weight of the costume, and was quickly whisked away by emergency officials.
The nationally televised annual parades featuring up to 5,000 dancers each and near-naked Carnival queens are a serious competition for the top samba schools, and are judged on choreography, atmosphere, organization and singing, among other points.
A disorganised wing or a faulty float can cost a school the title and bragging rights over the next year.
Each school has its own colours, a flag and many life-long supporters who eagerly attend rehearsals and watch the night’s show, rooting for their school.
Each school chooses a central theme or story for its entry.
“It represents a passenger arriving as the sun sets and he is going to go to a favela,” he said, referring to the slums that lie on the outskirts of the city.
With crime sharply up since the city hosted the Olympics last August and the state suffering an intense fiscal crisis, Rio remains deeply indebted and can barely maintain basic services like police, hospitals and schools.
Despite all that, the annual party, as always, goes on.
The festival, whose roots lie in a tradition of carnal indulgence before the austere Catholic season of Lent, officially ends next Wednesday.