Samba sans silicone: Rio Carnival school goes natural

Thu Feb 20, 2014 12:10pm EST
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By Paulo Prada

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Wanted: topless Carnival dancers.

It sounds like a simple request in a city known for steamy nightclubs, Bacchanalian beach parties and Carnival parades featuring nude starlets donning only a "tapa-sexo," a leaf-sized patch of fabric that serves, literally, as a sex covering.

But there was a hitch in the recent casting call. The women wanted by Mocidade Independente Padre Miguel, one of Rio de Janeiro's best known Carnival troupes, had to be silicone-free.

In salute to a bygone era, Mocidade wanted Carnival dancers without the globular breasts and "bumbum," or buttocks, that now dominate the annual spectacle, a week-long party meant to purge sin before the Catholic season of Lent.

"It wasn't easy," says Paulo Menezes, the artistic director for the group, one of the 12 top-tier troupes that will march in Rio's Carnival starting on March 2. "Most of the women who want to take part in something like this have all had some surgery."

Beauty-obsessed Brazil boasts one of the world's highest rates of cosmetic surgery. With two-thirds the population, it runs a close second to the United States in its number of plastic surgeons and the number of surgeries performed, according to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons.

Carnival itself is also about artifice.

The show at Rio's Sambadrome, the floodlit concrete parade ground, is a multimillion-dollar extravaganza of costumes, music and theater. Each samba school, as the troupes are known, is a regiment of dancers, drummers and divas. Mocidade alone will march 4,000 people.   Continued...

Brazilian dancer Jessica Gomes performs during the rehearsal of the Mocidade Independente Padre Miguel samba school in Rio de Janeiro, February 17, 2014, as a preparation for the 2014 Carnival parade. Wanted: topless Carnival dancers. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares