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Showers, glamour, glitches as Rio Carnival rolls
Mon Feb 23, 2009 2:50pm EST
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By Stuart Grudgings
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Luxuriant floats, one topped by Parisian cancan dancers and others showering hundreds of be-feathered dancers with water, rolled until daybreak on Monday as Rio de Janeiro's Carnival parades burst into life.
Behind the scenes, next to a putrid canal and out of sight of the 70,000 or so spectators, the near perfect symmetry and order of the parades seemed a world away as the Samba schools frantically prepared for their annual coming-out show.
Stewards dressed in bow ties scampered here and there fixing last-minute wardrobe malfunctions and trying to hold back the tide of Brazilian tardiness and high spirits.
Enterprising vendors from nearby slums dangled ice boxes full of beer over a wall for nervous performers seeking a drop of Dutch courage.
Like a scene from Alice in Wonderland, performers dressed as 19th century nobles, wide-skirted "Baiana" dancers, and musical notes mingled as they sought their starting positions, practiced their lines or enjoyed a last-minute cigarette.
"People who have never paraded don't understand they need to be here in front instead of chatting," fumed 47-year-old Malucia Camacho, who was in charge of a "wing" of about 80 costumed dancers for the Mocidade Samba school.
"It's not a lack of practice, it's because they like turning up late and don't like to work. They are undisciplined," she added, before bustling off to chide a group of nobles.
Nearby, a musical note relieved himself against a wall.
The nationally televised annual parades featuring up to 5,000 dancers each and near-naked Carnival queens is a serious two-day competition for the top Samba schools, judged on choreography, atmosphere, organization, and singing among other points.
A disorganized wing or a faulty float can cost a school the tile and bragging rights over the next year.
"ENTHUSIASM IN OUR BLOOD"
Last year, a school was famously disqualified when a tiny strip of material covering its top dancer's crotch fell off.
"A bit of my wing broke and my costume is too tight," said Daniella Cremer, a raven-haired 25-year-old model and dancer, about half an hour before being winched by a crane on to the front of one of Mocidade's floats.
"If something falls off, I'll just keep going to the end."
The omens were not looking good for Mocidade. During the last-minute preparations, its main parade designer was run over and injured by one of the floats, which also briefly caught fire. Continued...
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