Samba nation takes centre stage

By | Travel
Joatinga e São Conrado Districts, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Credit @Rubem Porto Jr via Creative Commons

Brazilian carnival’s are amongst the most colourful, atmospheric and exhilarating events around the world. A collection of talented musicians, dancers, floats and parties are what make their carnivals so renowned. Currently hosting the FIFA World Cup 2014, Brazil as a country, nicknamed the samba nation for its passion of dance and rhythm, has taken the centre stage. When the Opening Ceremony of the tournament took place on June 12, the world saw an energetic re-enactment of a Brazilian carnival.

Held in the Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo, (the largest city in Brazil), the stadium shone under blue skies and rumbled by an audience of thousands. Whilst opening one of the largest football tournaments world-wide, the choreographed football-style Carnival also opened a hidden world of Brazilian history, tradition and culture.

Brazil fans celebrate as they watch their country play in their home country.  Credit@CrystianCruz via

Brazil fans celebrate as they watch their country play in their home country. Credit@CrystianCruz via

From the Amazon basin in the north to the banks of the River Guaiba in the south, there are 12 stadiums across Brazil that currently host matches during the month-long tournament. Brazil is the largest country in South America and it is also the world’s fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population. It is a country of extreme richness and diversity in terms of landscape, people and culture, which the 30-minute show in the Opening Ceremony was designed to show-case.

A celebration of Brazilian nature took centre stage to open the show. Dancers were dressed in innovative costumes, depicting raindrops, rich vegetation and colourful flowers to represent the famous and important Amazonian Brazil. Covering over five and a half million square kilometres, the Amazon rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world. Although the rainforest stretches into Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and smaller parts in other South American countries, over half is contained within Brazil.

Dressed as raindrops, dancers represent the diverse climate in Brazil. Credit@Diario El Tiempo via

Dressed as raindrops, dancers represent the diverse climate in Brazil. Credit@Diario El Tiempo via

The second section of the ceremony reflected the diversity of the people of Brazil. A mixture of ethnicities, races and backgrounds form the population of 198.7 million. The Portuguese colonised the land in the early 16th century, hence Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, spoken by 99% of the population. However the country also speaks approximately another 210 languages, of which 180 are indigenous. While the dances reflected the rich diversity of the people of Brazil, the central giant LED ball, made up of over 90,000 lights, projected flags of the countries that had qualified from all parts the world.

Next onto the stage came a selection of dancers that illustrated the country’s history. By the start of the 16th century, much of the population in Brazil were descendants from the African slave trade, brought to service the sugar plantations, and extraction of gold and other natural resources. The choreographer of this part of the ceremony aimed to create a dance of celebration that has left Brazil with such a wonderful diversity of ethnicity.

Dances, music and instruments from different periods and cultures centred the stage next, reflecting the colourful and joyous Brazilian Carnival theme. Unlike in North America, slaves in Brazil were permitted to use drums, and their loud and throbbing beat became the root of the wonderful Samba rhythms so synonymous with Brazilian celebration and exuberance. Capoeira, an acrobatic and energetic dance and martial art was also performed to loud music.

A taste of a vibrant Brazilian carnival.

A taste of a vibrant Brazilian carnival.

The final part of the ceremony was a powerful celebration of the country’s love affair with football. Introduced in Brazil in the late 19th century, it was really taken into Brazil’s heart, and it is one of the proudest and passionate countries about its national football team that has grown so strong and won the World Cup five times already. 63 boys and 1 girl from local Brazilian football clubs formed this final part of the show. Dressed as black and white human ball figures and referees, they all demonstrated their super football skills, whilst lighting up the stage with giant smiles of happiness.

As the Brazilian flag entered the stage, it marked the climax of the Opening Ceremony. The sight of the distinctive green, yellow and blue colours excited the crowd, who have waited so long to host this world-wide tournament. After 100 hours of rehearsal and lots of auditions and choreography, the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 tournament was a unique and memorable tribute to Brazil and its treasures, nature, people and football.

How has the World Cup enriched your knowledge of Brazilian culture?


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