Fantasy and wild dancing at Rio carnival
Brazilians have forgotten their troubles as Rio de Janeiroís annual Carnival explodes into an extravaganza of flesh, fantasy and unrelenting drumming and dancing.
At least 70,000 people packed the Sambodromo, a wide avenue lined with viewing stands and bleachers, and millions more watched on television across the Latin American nation and the world as seven schools marched along the route for more than hour each, hoping to win the championís crown.
Dancers in plumed headdresses and minuscule bikinis, or dressed up in elaborate costumes as insects, flowers, Arab sheiks or Roman Centurions, gyrated.
Each school had a theme, which it developed in an allegorical performance, complete with fantastic floats. Each school had as many as 4,000 participants, marshalled by anxious looking officials, and included a drum corps of at least 300 percussionists.
They were marked on a number of points, including music, costumes, their precision and their all-round enthusiasm.
The Grande Rio performance was eagerly awaited.
Designed by top carnavalesco or choreographer Joaosinho Trinta, it ran into criticism before Carnival from the Roman Catholic Church because of its theme promoting condom use. Some of the dancers were dressed in sadomasochistic gear, their performance leaving little to the imagination.
One of the most spectacular floats was that of Salgueira. Its theme was developing ethanol as an alternative fuel, but it was anything but boring. The float featured a complete go-cart track, with riders driving carts around it.
Sao Clemente, which opened the parade, had a float with a model of Uncle Sam with his trousers around his ankles and his genitals exposed - a comment on strains between Brazil and the United States.
Rio authorities estimated 400,000 tourists were in town, including 80,000 foreigners, earning the city more than $140 million. That includes passengers on the luxury liner Queen Mary 2, which is moored in Guanbara Bay. óReuters