One of Austin’s longest-running and most spectacular annual traditions is gearing up for its 37th year. Carnaval, lauded as the largest indoor Brazilian Mardi Gras celebration anywhere on the globe, explodes at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, February 1, 2014 at Austin’s Palmer Events Center located at 900 Barton Springs Road.
An epic evening with the infectiously danceable pulse of samba drums, an endless parade of exotic costumes, and the uninhibited euphoria of over 6,000 attendees have established this Brazilian style festival as one of the most anticipated fêtes on area calendars.
The heart and soul of this festivity reside in the authentic, fiery Brazilian carnaval music provided by two high energy bands. New York’s Beleza Brasil is making their eleventh appearance in Austin. They have performed at venues up and down the East Coast and are regularly voted the Best Brazilian Band in the USA by the Brazilian Press Association. Veterans of Rio’s famous carnaval parades, the eleven Brazilian-born musicians of Beleza Brasil have played individually with everyone from Baden Powell and Marvin Gaye, to Sun Ra and David Byrne but, in Austin, they present a heady mix of traditional rhythms: samba, frevo, marchinha, bloco-afro and much more via their battery of pounding, sensual drums. Their lead singer Marianni Ebert made her Carnegie Hall debut in April of 2010.
Austin’s own traditional Rio-style Samba School, the Acadêmicos da Ópera, a locally based group of 40 drummers and 40 dancers, all bedecked in elaborate unifying costumes, will be making their tenth Carnaval presentation. Their up-close performances in the middle of the dance floor electrify the celebration with an authentic taste of Rio, modeled on that city’s legendary escolas de samba that often comprise 600 drummers and thousands of dancers in Rio’s annual carnaval parades. For 2014, Acadêmicos da Ópera’s costume theme is based on the 1959 classic film by French director Marcel Camus, Black Orpheus. The film is a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, set during the time of the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro, who played one of the featured child roles in the film and has become a major carnaval figure in Rio, will make a special guest appearance at Carnaval Austin.
The VIP Samba Circle Lounge will again be located in a private space behind the stage with enormous windows facing the lovely downtown skyline. This $25 perk affords guests easier access to bars and restrooms, complimentary coat check and room to relax. While supplies last, VIP guests will receive a complimentary Carnaval poster.
While not required, guests are encouraged to attend Carnaval in costume. Guests are typically bedecked in anything from gorgeous, traditional Brazilian costumes to the bizarre or the glamorous. Many guests enhance their enjoyment by gathering a group together, either from a neighborhood or other affiliation, and costume identically, or thematically, which Brazilians call a bloco. Face and body painting will also be available onsite for a nominal fee.
Carnaval Brasileiro began in the early 1970s to offer UT’s Brazilian students a nostalgic dose of their homeland’s legendary festivities, and is now a local institution attracting partygoers from all over the United States. After blowing the roof off one downtown club in 1978, the party immediately outgrew the legendary Armadillo World Headquarters after only one year in residence. Then the old City Coliseum was home to the event for nearly 20 years before settling into its present venue, Palmer Events Center in 2003. Flamboyant, often scanty costumes, throbbing Brazilian samba, and the uninhibited, spirited atmosphere have earned Carnaval its reputation as the premier such festivity in the country.
The party has inspired multiple fan websites, as well as helping cultivate a love of things Brazilian in Central Texas ranging from music and food to Brazilian martial arts. The party has been featured often on national television including appearances on The Price Is Right and twice on HDNet’s Art Mann Presents.
The poster for Carnaval Austin 2014 was painted on canvas by Austin artist Susannah Blanton who based the style on that of a late 1950s film poster as might have been used to promote the film Black Orpheus. Printed posters will be available in late November.
A portion of the proceeds from Carnaval will benefit the Austin Sunshine Camps, a non-profit organization which provides not only free summer camps for Austin at-risk kids, but year-round mentoring and leadership programs.
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