Attendance at the ensaios is free so it is a popular event and opportunity for the various communities to come out and support their school. For us it was an opportunity to get into the spirit and to see the renovations that had been made over the last year to the venue. Ana and Lynn joined us as we set off for a night of music and fun.
The Sambodromo is essentially a parade route about a kilometer long. Each side has a variety of seating areas ranging from partially enclosed luxury boxes (camarotes), open air reserved seating right down on the street level (frisas), and the reserved seat stands (arquibancadas). The recent renovations added lots of new camarotes and expanded the arquibancadas to increase seating capacity to around 85,000.
Two schools present their show at each ensaio but do not march in costume nor do they bring in the floats – this is all about choreography, timing and a bit of advertising. Each school will spend US$4-5 million in preparation and presentation. Funding comes from a variety of sources, including the government, as well as money from illegal gambling and drug trafficking . Recently many of the schools have taken on corporate sponsors as well and as a substitute for the illegal activities. They can use sponsor logos and names in all activities leading up to the parade but cannot show any sponsorship advertising during the actual competition.
Seating is pretty much open on rehearsal nights so attendees can chose to sit down close to the paraders.
Or they can choose the arquibancadas and the chance to hang banners, shoot off confetti and generally show their support.
As in all Carnaval, events the audience participates in costume and spirit.
While some opt for the more simple show of support for their favored school.
The marchers, however, are dressed only their official shirts (for sale as a fund raising source....).
King Momo, the Carnaval king and official host, participates in each rehearsal.
His costume, and the queen’s, change to show the colors of each school throughout the Carnaval season.
The ensaios offer a great opportunity for orientation at the Sambodromo and to begin to learn the music and the themes of each school. And they are free! If any of you are visiting during the Carnaval season I highly recommend that this activity be included on your list.