Stormtroopers, Lady Godiva and 30,000 samba dancers

Dancers at the Sambadrome

If there’s one thing that continues to spellbind us on our travels, it’s the footwork of Brazilian people of all ages dancing samba.

And the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them, light-footed steps riding the rhythms of the bateria are showcased nowhere better than a night at Rio’s famous Sambadrome.

Dancers from São Clemente samba school

An explosion of drums, music, colour and theatre, the best of the city’s samba schools dance their hearts out for an hour and a half each down a 700-metre-long parade in a bid to be crowned winner.

Every year the awe-inspiring floats, depicting the ancient, modern, mythological and utterly bizarre, get more and more impressive as the competition hots up.

One of the floats at this year’s Sambadrome parade

Gerbil wheel, cow and sheep float…


Of the six schools we see shake their stuff from our position above in the Grandstand steps, the overriding favourite is Tijuca – last year’s champions – who produce a brilliant spectacle based on films.

So instead of the usual glitter and feathers we are treated to Transformers, Ghostbusters and Jurassic Park.


Headless zombies wreak havoc while a swimmer is gobbled up by Jaws, Harry Potter flies before a huge tilted revolving dinner table in the middle of Hogwarts, and the crowds go wild as Indiana Jones narrowly escapes being crushed by a giant rolling boulder.


Phil is especially impressed by the historical efforts of another school, Vila, who feature a flesh-flashing Lady Godiva riding through the streets of Coventry, for their theme of ‘hair’. I would agree, though I’m not sure whether Lady G would have had quite such deep tan lines…

Ronaldinho greets his fans

Ronaldinho and Gisele Bündchen are among the celebrities watching the schools, who are awarded points on their dancing, music, floats, costumes and theme.

A friend tells us many lose points for members not singing the words to the school’s specially created song – which often happens due to the number of tourists who fork out to join in the parade for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Between each float, shapely Brazilian dancers or the school’s King and Queen smile and glide along gracefully, dressed in elaborate feather-and-glitter costumes that must weigh a tonne.

It is ironic that despite now being such a Carnaval institution with its vibrance and energy, the Marquês de Sapucaí Sambadrome was only built in the 1980s and its throne is in one of the poorest areas of Rio.

A friendly local who has been trying to teach us some samba moves eventually flakes out on the concrete step, exhausted, and as drizzly rain starts to fall we decide to head home.

As we walk back to the metro in the cold morning light, music still ringing in our ears, we pass the huge used floats now lining the streets, characters’ faces still smiling down from above.


About travellingtoothbrushes

We are a couple of journalists with restless toothbrushes. Our teeth scrubbers seem unable to leap out of their respective washbags to take up a permanent residency on the bathroom shelf. So, we've decided to let them live the way they want to and take them on a trip around South America...
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9 Responses to Stormtroopers, Lady Godiva and 30,000 samba dancers

  1. EMILY says:

    Hello Sophie and Phil.
    Sounds like you are having an amazing time. I am not jealous at all, as I remain chained to my desk. Will keep reading and trying not remain not too envious!!
    Have you had any globos yet? Caricoas are mad for them
    Take care
    Emily x

    • Hey Emily! Great to hear from you, yes we have indeed tried the globos, yum yum! We tried to go up Corcovado today but the Christ cam was painting a pretty bleak picture (it’s been raining quite a bit) so maybe another time.
      Hope all is well with your lovely self, keep in touch,
      Soph and Philxx

  2. Daddy Pete says:

    I was there with mi filia Sophie and reading her blog, (now back in freezing England!), and seeing those photos again makes me seethe with envy. She paints the picture well, but of course it’s impossible to convey the thrill and pounding heart you get when a wing of three hundred costumed drummers pass right in front of you, making a deafening but intricately syncopated throbbing roar from the various instruments, which range from tiny to huge, and from skins to tambourines. I shall hear them in my sleep for weeks.

    • Hey Pepe – haha thanks for that, did someone buy you some word of the day loo roll?? 🙂 We shall be hearing your sweet voice saying “Where is the Post Office? I need to buy stamps!” in our sleep for weeks too..!!
      Glad you got home safe – let us know how the homemade caipirinhas turn out (we had two yesterday and can’t remember half the night!) S and Pxx

  3. Tia Annegret says:

    Hi, boah! This is La Tante from Germany – much impressed! Was in South Africa on business during the festivities and missed everything… including the German Karneval which looks perfectly dreary compared with this one…As I have managed to see the Table Mountain in CapeTown with not a single cloud you should be okay with the Corcovado soon 🙂
    Lots of Love, looking forward to every single posting!!!

  4. Hello! Lovely to hear from you and glad South Africa went well – do you have any pictures? It’s really overcast again today so we might go for a cycle along the beach and to the old presidential palace. Take care and keep in touch!! Love Sofia and Felipexx

  5. Anne and Keith says:

    Hi Soph and Phil,
    We have read our first blog ever, it’s yours and we love it!
    Keep writing and keep safe.

    Love Keith and Anne xx

    • Hello Keith and Anne!

      Haha! That makes two firsts, because when I had my debut meal at the famous Chez Tomkinson I blummin’ loved that too! D-Lish-Ous!

      Great to hear from you, don’t worry we’ve got each others’ backs!

      Love to you both and the girls (and guys!), the toothbrushes xx

  6. Lindons says:

    Phil….I am sure your samba skills have set rio alight?

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