Youth bows to maturity for Rio Carnival queens

Tue Feb 24, 2009 2:10pm EST
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By Stuart Grudgings

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Two 40-something drum queens stole the show at Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome on Tuesday, dancing in little more than feathers and high heels in the annual Carnival parades where youth is usually king.

On the second and final night of parades that are both a huge tourist draw and serious competition between poor Rio communities, a drum queen making a comeback at the relatively ripe age of 44 captured Brazilians' imagination.

"This for me is a sacred place," said the buxom Luma de Oliveira, a model, who danced Samba non-stop for 80 minutes in front of about 70,000 spectators for the Portela school.

A star performer for the school since the age of 16, Oliveira's comeback after three years' absence has been followed hungrily by the Brazilian media always eager for a story line about the near-naked drum queens.

The other "veteran" was Luiza Brunet, 46, who led the hundreds-strong drumming troupe for the Imperatriz Leopoldinense school.

While they win no points officially, the queens are in some ways the stars of the show, given large spaces in the parades to show off their rapid-fire Samba moves and stunning figures.

A debutante queen called Valesca "Big Bum" Santos threatened to steal Oliveira's thunder on Tuesday. A singer and dancer from the world of funk music that draws thousands to drug and drink-fueled parties in Rio's slums, her participation had been frowned upon by some Samba purists.

"It was marvelous. Funk and Samba have a lot in common," Santos said.   Continued...

<p>A reveller of Portela samba school dances atop a float during the second night of the Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome, early February 24, 2009. REUTERS/Bruno Domingos</p>