The iconic Rio Carnival just kicked off and is celebrating its 78th-year of pre-Lenten celebrating. Rio Carnival is one of the most significant cultural celebrations Brazil has tracing its roots back hundreds of years – so how did a British Jew get the honor of leading the opening parade?
This year and for the first time ever a non-Brazilian kicked off carnival. The honor went to Samantha Flores, 37, a former Londoner that immigrated to Rio de Janiero in 2006. More surprising is that Flores is not a professional dancer, yet rode atop one of the country’s top samba school floats in the parade– the Imperio da Tijuca samba school.
So how did this self-described “nice Jewish girl” get one of Brazil’s top honors and the historic distinction as the first foreigner to lead Carnival?
Passion for all things SAMBA.
As a student of the prestigious school her teachers thought Flores deserved the key position on their float - a float that was placed in the first spot in the kick-off parade. Her teachers rewarded her 3 hours-a-day, five-year strong dedication to samba dancing, with Flores hoping to win her school top honors. After visiting Rio over a decade ago this Brit fell in love with samba, gave up her day job and came to Brazil to dance.
To top off her strong dance skills Flores is fluent in the native tongue of Portuguese, presented along with her lovely British accent, which helped her sing along to this year’s theme song. The talented dancer first danced in carnival in 2011 dancing as in a colorful canary costume and this year as a feathered pheasant.
There are four days of parades in Rio ending right before Ash Wednesday, which for Christians is the start of the Lenten seasons. The Samba parade is the highlight of carnival festivities. Flores and other participants are judged on costume design and choreography, while the school is judged on its float theme, music and band performance.
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