Sunday, January 4, 2009

VIP and Dressed to Impress

I was misinformed. Yes, I knew that it was a community social. Yes, I knew that this was weekend entertainment. What I did not know what that this was really like going to the club, that I needed to have on my heels and a catchaman dress, and that I was going to see and be seen amongst the beautiful people.

When our van turned down the street that the court for Salguiero was on (one of the “most important” schools of samba), we drove into a crowd of people and were following a long line of vans and taxis. There were vendors on either side of the street selling all kinds of food and drinks (alcoholic and not). There were also vendors selling Salguiero t-shirts and bandanas. When we got out of the van we stood in front of the court’s building complete with a red neon sign, “Salguiero.” There were separate lines to get in: men were $R30.00 and ladies were $R 20.00... Yes, there’s ladies night in Brazil too.

But us, we had the serious hookup. Jaime Cesario, our resident Carvalesco, knows alls the important people in Rio that have to do with Carnaval. He knew the PR woman who brought us in free of charge. We then received little green tickets, which allowed us to go upstairs to where the box seats were in order to overlook the crowd.

And what a crowd it was. Armando guesstimated that there were about 3000 people in that place. I don’t know if it was that many, but there were many. Young and old were present: glammed up and many in red and white, Salgueiro’s colors. Even um transformista – a drag queen. Inside there were vendor stations where you could buy fried food, soda, beer, Smirnoff ice in a can, and Capirinha, the local cocktail (kind of like a mojito, but mostly cachaca liquor and a touch of sugar and lime). Other vendors walked around selling warm salted peanuts.

The order of the program was almost exactly like the open rehearsal/social we attended the night before of Sao Clemente. But this was not the familial atmosphere we experienced the night before. It certainly wasn’t as small, and we were not hobnobbing with the President or the director of the Baianas as we had last night. No - this was a show, it was a concert, it was a club-like party. And we were just a few of many who wanted to see and be seen, take pictures, and samba.

When we came in, a band was playing on stage and then with no warning the bateria started, they went off, like a shotgun. Oooo and they worked it out. Unlike the Sao Clemente bateria where people changed in and out including the president and the flag carrier etc., this bateria had its own box in the balcony right in the center of the court. Everyone there was there specifically to play his or her percussion instrument and to entertain. They would send certain people to the front from time to time to perform a solo like one young man who came forward and was grinding while playing his drum, or another time a child came forward and was working it out despite young age.

We also happened to come on a night when judges were choosing Miss Salguiero, a woman, who if she won this competition would be atop of one of the Carnaval floats (and be glamorous of course). Four competitors walked on stage in string bikinis and stilettos, and one at a time did a slow samba then responded to questions of why they wanted to be Miss Salguiero, after which they did a fast samba and the crowd saw all of their booty’s shake.

When it was time for some parading to happen, the Disciplina (security) parted the crowd like the red sea to make way for the Baianas, two pair of master of ceremonies and flag carrier, and the passistas – 3 men and 5 women. The passistas were in costume: the men in white sequined pants and blazer, no shirt to show off their chest and abs, red tie and white hat; the women wore red sequined bikini tops and bottoms, heels, and large feathered headdresses.

It was so interesting to see the contrast between Sao Clemente and Salgueiro because it really made apparent the criticisms that experts, or academics have against the Carnaval of today. If this is any indication of how Salguiero parades, then it does seem that for many it is all about the glitz and glam, and showing off the bodies (read: the booties) and not necessarily about really trying to say something – voice an opinion, tell a story, pass on a history. And if they are, well Salguiero certainly does it in style. They certainly have some major sponsors (think big business sponsors community organization: radio stations, gas companies). And they definitely attract a lot of attention.

All I know is that if I ever have the opportunity to come to Salguiero again, I’ll be sure to dress appropriately.

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