Showers, daring, glitches as Rio Carnival rolls

Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:36pm 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 on Monday as Rio de Janeiro's Carnival parades burst into life.

A golden Queen Cleopatra bathing in milk, a female dancer pushing the limits of Carnival tolerance, and the high-kicking Moulin Rouge troupe kept 70,000 spectators in Rio's Sambadrome buzzing through to dawn.

Behind the scenes, next to a putrid canal and out of sight of the throng, 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.   Continued...

<p>Revellers of Unidas da Tijuca samba school dance atop a float during the first night of the Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome, early February 23, 2009. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes</p>