How the official jury evaluates a samba school parade
The samba schools parade is the greatest celebration of Carnival in Rio. Every year thousands of people watch a competition that takes place since 1932 and raises a lot of passion. Nowadays it’s a very sophisticatad mega production in which any detail can cost some tenths of points and the chance to win the big prize or even a spot and the Parade of Champions.
It’s important to know a jury of 36 people, spread along the Sambadrome runway, is evaluating the samba schools in nine different categories. Let’s learn what’s taken into consideration. This will be a two-post mission. Hope that after them you will be a liitle more familiar to the criteria that decide Rio’s Carnival great samba school champion.
Every samba school parade must be developed around a theme, the story that will be told. The jury receives a thorough description of the parade, explaining the theme, and the context that each wing and scenic elements (floats) represent.
The best name in English to describe this category is Plot. The schools are evaluated according to two subcriteria: the original idea and how it was developed. Was the story told in an interesting, coherent way? Was it original? Creative? The sequence made sense as in a movie screenplay?
If the costumes and floats are not in the order previously informed the jury can punish the samba school. If a float breaks and is not presented, the sequence of the Plot is spoiled costing some tenths of points.
- Comissão de Frente
This is the very first wing of any parade. Its function is to present the samba school to the public, therefore their name: The Announcers. Recently it gained a lot of importance and each school tries to create a greater show to impress the audience and create a momentum for the whole presentation.
The jury will oversee aspects like the creativity, synchrony of movements, the choreography and how it helps to understand the theme of the whole parade. They evaluate also the costumes created for the participants that may range from 10 to 15.
It’s mandatory that The Announcers make their full routine in front of each of the four-jury posts along the runway. If any participant slips, falls, lose a piece of its costume or drop an accessory the school may suffer a penalty.
- Mestre-Sala e Porta-Bandeira
The couple known as “Mestre-Sala” (or Master of Cerimonies) and “Porta-Bandeira” (Flag Bearer) has the heaviest burden of the parade. It’s the only “individual” category. Along a samba school presentation you will usually see three couples but the jury evaluates only the one that comes right after the Announcers. They consider the costume and the dance quality.
To excel in this category, the couple must be at the same time precise and gracious. They are the only participants that don’t do samba moves, but a rather specific routine of half-turns, full spins, providing the man is always corteous to the woman carrying the flag.
The couple has some other rules to follow like never turning their back to each other. A samba school flag has the status of a sacred element. The bearer could not let the flag wrap around its pole and the man should never let it touch his face. The two can lose tenths of points if they slip, fall or lose parts of their costume.
Are the participants of the parade dancing according to the rhythm of the Drums section? Are they singing the music? Does the parade have a regular and constant flow or it alternates moments in which the dancers are not moving forward with others when they are nearly running? Are there large spaces (the feared “holes”) between a wing and the next wing or float? Are one wing mixing with another as if they were a single one? All those aspects are considered by the jury of Evolução.
This is the category that evaluates the correct flow of the parade. A samba school must at all times dance and move forward at the same pace. That’s why flaws like the ones described above may cost decisive tenths of points. It’s good to note there are some exceptions that should not be considered as holes: the space given to the flag-bearer and her partner to present and also the one that is created when the drums section leaves its position and enter the box from where they will support the parade until the last wings.