In another night of accidents with parade floats and injuries at the Marquês de Sapucaí sambadrome, samba schools Mangueira and Portela closed the parade of the six schools that made the second day of the main competition (Special Group) on Tuesday (Feb. 28), both with strong chances of winning.
The parade began on Monday night (27). The first school in the parade was the União da Ilha with giant floats about time in a procession based on the Angolan myth of Nzara Ndembu. A 18-meter-tall opening float stood out in the parade runway.
But issues emerged as the last but one float pulled onto the sambadrome and ended up leaving a hole in the procession, a critical mistake when caught in front of the panel of judges. At its final stretch in the procession, the same float once again caused the school trouble, forcing it to rush to complete the parade within the 1 hour 15 minutes’ maximum time.
Samba school São Clemente made a lighthearted, colorful parade telling the story behind the construction of the Palace of Versailles in France. The story goes that the Finance Superintendent of France built a palace, but the king found it too sumptuous for the superintendent’s standing and ordered a bigger one for himself.
The beautiful floats and costumes inspired by Morocco and stories like Arabian Nights paraded by Mocidade Independente dazzled the crowd. The highlight was a magic carpet that took off from its opening wing, flying Aladdin over the bleachers. Choreographer Saulo Finelon exulted at the successful flight of the model aircraft.
Unidos da Tijuca entered the sambadrome to honor Brazilian composer Pixinguinha and Louis Armstrong, along with references to more contemporary names in the US music scene—including Beyoncé and Whitney Houston.
But the top of one of the floats sank and fell over the dancers standing on the float, and the firefighters had to put up a rescue operation in the middle of the parade. Five people were hospitalized, and with the float stalled, the samba school had to change the order of the floats and wings in the procession.
Portela completed its parade amid shouts of “Winner! Winner!” The theme revolved around humankind’s relation with rivers in history, with references to legends and religions. The samba school also protested against the environmental disaster caused by the collapse of a mining dam that devastated communities and left many dead and wounded in Mariana, Minas Gerais.
Mangueira rounded off the night with a procession about saints that have large cult followings in Brazil, and stunned spectators with powerful floats including those of Our Lady of Aparecida, Iyemanja, and Saint George.
The use of religious images has been a source of tension between samba schools and the Catholic Church in Rio de Janeiro before. But Carnival designer Leandro Vieira believes that Mangueira’s 2017 parade has helped change this. “That was Carnival making peace with the church. Religion is popular culture,” said Vieira, who heard shouts of “Winner again!” from members of the school and the grandstand—Mangueira was the winner at the sambadrome last year.
Translated by Mayra Borges