• Language:
  • Currency:

Home | Samba Parade

The Parades

Rio de Janeiro Samba Parades

2018 Carnival Samba Parades

The 2018 Guide for Rio de Janeiro Samba Parades at Sambodromo. This page provides information about the Rio de Janeiro Samba Parades at the Sambodromo, also known as Carnival Parades. 

The highlight of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival is definitely the Samba Schools' Parade, an one of a kind event in the world.
The Samba Schools' Parades are a tought competition between the Rio de Janeiro Samba Schools, The judges and the expectators watch the main parades at the Sambódromo, which has been built specially for this occasion. See the evaluation of a Samba School.

The Rio de Janeiro Samba Schools' Parade are very different from all other street parades held in some other places in the world. It has started as a street party with groups of bands, called blocks. The Carnival Parades in Rio de Janeiro have been developed and become something special: a competition between the Samba Schools. The main parades were initially held Downtown. Until the mid-1980s, as spectators bleachers and simply assembled and dismantled every year on the President Vargas avenue, one of the main arteries of Rio de Janeiro. Then, the main parades have been transferred to the Sambódromo, built especially for this event.

The preparation for the Samba Parades starts with an anticipation of months. Every school is integrated of thousand of paraders, specially from the community which the school is stated, creating sections and wings that compose the school. First, the year samba song is elected in a contest that lasts a few months at the Samba Schools, while the Carnival Designer creates the costumes and floats. When everything is determined, the called prototypes are sent to the production line. In December, the rehearsals begin. In half December, the sambas de enredo (the year samba songs of every school) are recorded and sold at the stores.

The Rio de Janeiro Samba Parades are not like a street event, where people move however they want, instead, they are highly choreographed shows with huge proportions. Every parader has a specific role and place according to the costume in a special wing, in a special section that helps to reveal the school's theme at the Avenue. 
Every year, each school choose a different theme to the parade. It can be a celebration, a historical event or famous characters of Brazilian history, a special event, a place or anything that moves the audience's immagination: a special animal, or one of the elements like water or fire. The School has to develop and remain in the chosen theme during its parade. 

› The Year Samba Songs are specially written for the parade year, according to the theme.

› Every one of the floats and the Costumes of the Paraders (which may vary from 3.000 to 5.000) are richly decorated, revealing every detail thought by the Carnival Designer to the audience and the judges.

Each Samba School Parade is quite thought and organized. They align in a unique way to present their show. The Schools are divided in many sections and every section has a number of wings, with about 100-200 components wearing the same kind of costume. The Carnival Glossary, in this page, can help you with some details about the name and the role of some special sections of the Carnival Parades. Between the wings, there are the floats. Most of them are had pushed by men of the Samba School community, but some of theme function with motors. The floats can have special guests of the School, along with components of the School wearing mindblowing costumes.

The costumes have a fantastic imaginary included, so, they are full of details and colors. They are true masterpieces, concepted out of nothing every year. They have mirrors, feathers, metallic fabric, silk and some of them may have jewels or coins. These costumes take months to be made. This work begins about eight months before Carnival.

Every school has its own colors (the flag colors) and costumes' style. The colour pallete is reflected in many parts of the parade.
The most ellaborate costumes are worn by the parade's highlights. They are selected members with the honor to wear these special costumes.

Even though full nudity is not allowed, sometimes the floats have people with quite few clothes or almost none. Men and women are there, wearing only body painting and lots of glow and a smile.

You can thing about this event like a big opera, or many operas, because there are many different themes in one night. Is a gorgeous concert, that will blow your mind and memories.

How the Parades are judged

The Rio de Janeiro Samba Parades are a glorious competition in which the points are given by judges. Just like in sports, they offer entertainment and have rigid rules at the same time. 

The schools are judged in 10 categories. There are four judges for each category, and every judge gives a grade from 7 to 10  (with fractions), where 10 is the top. The grades are counted and announced at the ashes' Wednesday (the day after the Carnival's Tuesday). During the parades, the judges are spread along the Avenue in cabins signed with the name "JUDGES" and the name of the categories. 

The 10 Categories in which the Samba Schools are judged


The drums must keep the rhythm through the Parade. Every component of the School have to be singing and dancing in the rhythm of the group. The four judges evaluate the regularity and continuity of the beats, a precise and strong beat of the bass drum and an effective and balanced sound of all the instruments. The rhythm must be diversified, but still perfectly executed, specially when the instruments start over after the breaks. The tempo must be mantained during the Parade. The versatility of the group is vital. Wind instruments are not allowed.


The samba must contain the essence of the main theme chosen by the School to present in the Parade of the year. The lyrics must fit in the music, once the samba is also judged by its artistic skills. This is the only category that the judges divide their grades, with some points to the lyrics and some to the melody.


In this category, the musical, acoustic and visual harmony of the Parade is judged. To have a high score in this category, the song, rhythm and singing must perfectly fit in the choreography and dance of the School's components. The School might lose points for lack of components singing the samba song correctly.


This is the main theme chosen by the School and must be represented during the Parade. It's an artistic and literary creation. The judges consider factors including the strenght of the idea and the development through the wings and floats, The theme and the main idea behind the show must be easy to be understood. The theme can also have abroad references. The penalty points are reached, however, with no advertising involved. 


Coherence and compatibility are assessed on the participants' movements and dance with rhythm. The parade must maintain a constant flow, being spontaneous and creative at the same time, expressing passion, agility and vigor of the participants. Penalty points are applied if the school breaches gaps between the parades, or between the wings.


Category judged freely, without much technical criteria, where the overall impact of the school parade is considered. It is the most subjective category and, as such, they generate many controversies.


This category evaluates the visual expression of the theme, the originality and the quality of the artwork, such as the movements, colors and visual effects involved. The judges evaluate the floats and all the props used in the parade. Judges consider the effectiveness of floats and props in displaying the plot and how their design supports theme ideas. The costumes of the highlights (the most luxurious costumes on top of the floats and the rest of the parade) are also rated in this category.


In this category all aspects of the ward that opens the samba school parade are considered. The judges consider the choreography, costumes and how it achieves the main purpose, which is the introduction of the school to the public. Today, it is where one of the main parts of the show is concentrated.


The flag-bearer and her Escord are very important elements in the school. Judges judge dance, elegance, grace and agility, flexibility and the variety of their movements, and judge the symbolic protection of the Flag. Coordination between the two as a couple is also important.

Carnival Glossary

King Momo
"Momo" is the name of the god of the mocking in geek mythology. According to Carnival tradition, the Momo King must be happy and as big as a house. The legend says he has been spell from Olympus to stabblish in Rio, the Carnival City. The Rio de Janeiro Carnival officially begins with the delivery of the city keys to the King Momo. It's when King Momo starts to dance the Samba, and everything - ornaments, feathers and everybody at the party - must dance with him. He opens very big Carnival event, including the Parades.

The Queen and the Princesses
The Carnival Queen is chosen meticulously by her beauty, self-confidence, sociability, nice expressions, charisma and samba skills; but above it all, she must have the "Carnival Spirit" The candidates in the second and third places are crowned as Carnival Princesses, a recently created title. 
Carnival Designer
He is the professional responsible for the artistic work and also of the design, production and direction of the School Paradel. Sometimes they choose and also develop the theme of the year. They design all the costumes and floats, choose and oversee the purchase of materials, manage the construction and fabrication of floats, costumes and accessories. They can make lots of money in a special group school. The names of the great Carnival Designers of Rio de Janeiro are as well known as the great film directors. They have their own style, some because they attribute very futuristic characteristics like: Salgueiro (baroque), Imperatriz and Mangueira (rococo); or they have a preference for a specific theme like Beija-Flor, that prefers to approach themes that are very Brazilian or with African origins.

They are the divisions of a School Parade - the School is divided by many of them. A group from 50 to 200 people wearing the same kind of costume with the same reason. The Costume illustrates a particular moment of the School's theme. Every wing has a President, who's responsible by the costumes (production and purchase) and coordinates the Parade and every wing's component.

Vanguard Commission
The Vanguard Commision is the initial impulse of the school. It's composed  by a group of 12- 15 dancers with a high level choreography, presenting the School to the audience. Their costumes may not show the main theme of the School Parade. Originally, it was composed ony by tall and strong men counting steps forward, not allowed to look back. Nowadays, the Vanguard Commission is almost like a separate part of the show. It has become an spectacle because of its own choreography with true splendor. Sometimes, a little themed car is also in this wing, with symbols of the School and some celebrities wearing the best costumes. 

The Flag Bearer and her Escort
As the name says, she bears the School's flag. They are a symbol of the School. The Escort is there to lead and protect her. Originally, he had a knife to represent and act the defense of the School's flag, making sure that no other School would harm the most precious symbol of the parading School and losing the rivalry. Its dance is the most ellaborated and elegant of the Parade. The Schools have more than one couple, usually three, but only the first couple is judged.
Bahians' Wing
This wing is composed by elder women of the School, with great traditional costumes from Bahia, a brazilian state. They have big rounded skirts and petticoats and tubes inserted, and in some moments like the chorus they spin around representing the soul and the African origins of the School. Every School must have at least 80 Bahian not to lose points (the Main Parades' Schools).They are elder ladies from the community that integrates the School for many years. This is an absolute tribute, and the School make the costume with no cost. They are very respected and usually get a round of applause when they pass by the Avenue. Nowadays, only women can parade in this wing. There's also the privilege of medical assistence for them during the Parade. Another curiosity is that the lines of this wing are organized by the time the components parade in the School. Some schools, like Beija-Flor, Grande Rio and Salgueiro also have younger women in their Bahianas' wings.

Drums' section
This is the pounding heart of the school, composed by 250-350 drum players. This section provides energy and life along the Parade. It's a community wing, so the costumes are paid by the School. The Drums Director is the one who chooses the components of the group through continuum tests, rehearsals and discipline. The rehearsals begin months before the Carnival. Sometimes, the drummers' costumes are so big that makes it difficult to play their instruments. There are microphones above the drums and a sound car with the samba singers. Some schoolds are so traditional that they use the same instruments for decades (like Mangueira, Portela and Império Serrano). In the 1980's, Mocidade brought new instruments for their drums' section. Inevitably, the other schools (such as Viradouro, Grande Rio, Porto da Pedra and Beija-Flor) started to develop new techniques and put other music genres in samba (daring to even use funk carioca beats and high developed choreography). And looks like it has worked! 
Samba Singer
Usually male, he is responsible for singing the school samba, almost always accompanied by a group of singers. They usually come on top of the sound car just behind the drums or walk along the Avenue.
Drummers' Queen
She is always a gorgeous woman, in charge of introducing the battery to the spectators. She is responsible for motivating and inspiring the battalion of musicians who follow her throughout the parade.
Samba Dancers
Composed by the best samba school - parades with a maximum of 50 components. It is very difficult to sambar to the rhythm of the samba school and at the same time to move along the avenue and its 700 meters. These samba dancers are always the main attraction of the school. They are chosen through a competition that takes place every year, and it is certainly a great honor to be among the best.
Each themed car and each wing has a number of people dedicated to make sure that the parade occurs without problems. They are identified by the use of shirts that represent their wing or car. The samba school is punished if it takes too long to parade or parade with less time than the minimum parade time. Points are also removed from schools in case there are voids between the wings.