Samba school rehearsals are great for partying before carnival

Nana Vaz de Castro
The party only starts on February 24th, but until then, there are many options for those who want to do the samba. If you reckon that samba schools are all the same, think again. There is something different for every taste. Starting with the really traditional schools, like Império Serrano, in Madureira (a suburb in Rio). The environment is good for families, very calm, and the regulars dress up for the party.

The usual "drum section show" at Império can be checked out at around midnight, when about 50 percussionists (a fifth part of the total amount) show off their unique drumming skills. The arena is clean and surrounded with tables.

The current carnival parade champion, Imperatriz Leopoldinense, also finishes early. The rehearsal starts at about 8 p.m. and by 1 a.m. there's hardly a tambourin being banged on. Miles away from Unidos da Tijuca, where things start to get hot by 2 a.m. The environment is the opposite from Império: no families, a whole lot of thirthysomethings and a dating game atmosphere like in the old days of carnival balls.

Guest appearances
It is usual that one school will receive guests from other schools, this time of the year. In larger arenas, like Portela's, the party is beautiful. The blue and white schoool, also from Madureira, has one of the most appropriate facilities for such parties, with outdoor and indoor spaces, allowing the regulars to do the samba and also to talk, if they wish (which is almost impossible in other arenas).

The rehearsal at Salgueiro, in Tijuca (northern side of town) is the best stop in the neighborhood on Saturdays. The drum section starts after midnight and the street in front of the school gets crammed with people and food & drink stands. Inside the building, the crowd seems even bigger. The drum section show is excellent. The only rehearsal that is more crowded is Mangueira's, where artists, vips, the bourgeois and the tourists meet. It gets so overloaded with people that you can't get in after 1 a.m. The arena is not that large, the heat is intense. There's also some buzz outside, with little tables, food and drinks.

Samba school rehearsals:
Rua Clara Nunes, 81, Madureira. Tel: 489-6440
On Fridays. Tickets: R$ 3 (ladies) and R$ 5 (gentlemen)

Rua Silva Teles, 104, Andaraí. Tel: 238-5564
On Saturdays. Tickets: R$ 10

Rua Visconde de Niterói, 1072, Palácio do Samba. Tel: 567-4637
On Saturdays. Tickets: R$ 15

Império Serrano
Av. Min. Edgard Romero, 114, Madureira. Tel: 3359-4944
On Saturdays. Tickets: R$ 3 (ladies) and R$ 5 (gentlemen)

Imperatriz Leopoldinense
Rua Professor Lacê, 235, Ramos. Tel: 560-8037
On Saturdays. Tickets: R$ 5

Unidos da Tijuca
Rua Francisco Bicalho, 47 (Clube dos Portuários), Cidade Nova. Tel: 516-4053
On Saturdays. Tickets: R$ 3 (ladies) and R$ 5 (gentlemen)

Av. Intendente Magalhães, 160, Campinho
On Fridays. Free of charge

Praça Wallace Paes Leme, 1025, Nilópolis. Tel: 791-2866
On Thursdays. Free of charge

Paraíso do Tuiuti
Campo de São Cristóvão, 33, São Cristóvão. Tel: 3860-6298
On Fridays. Free of charge

Caprichosos de Pilares
Rua Faleiros, 1, Pilares. Tel: 592-5620
On saturdays. Tickets: R$ 3

Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel
Rua Coronel Tamarindo, 38, Padre Miguel. Tel: 3332-5823
On Saturdays. Tickets: R$ 3 (ladies) and R$ 5 (gentlemen)

Av. do Contorno, 16, Barreto - Niterói. Tel: 628-7840
On Saturdays. Tickets: R$ 1 (ladies) and R$ 3 (gentlemen)

Grande Rio
Rua Almirante Barroso, 5/6, Duque de Caxias. Tel: 775-8422
On Saturdays. Tickets: R$ 4

União da Ilha
Estrada do Galeão, 322, Ilha do Governador. Tel: 3396-4951
On Saturdays. Tickets: R$ 5

Blocos (percussion groups):
Banda de Ipanema
February 24th and 27th
Where: Praça General Osório, in Ipanema

February 16th
Where: Clube Condomínio. Rua Abreu Fialho, 12, Horto

Simpatia É Quase Amor
February 17th and 25th
Where: in the streets of Ipanema

Suvaco do Cristo
February 18th
Where: Jardim Botânico and Horto

Escravos da Mauá
February 16th and 22nd
Where: around Praça Mauá (downtown)

Meu Bem Volto Já
February 22nd
Where: Leme

Bloco das Carmelitas
February 17th and 23rd
Where: Ladeira de Santa Teresa

Concentra Mas Não Sai
February 23rd
Where: In front of the bar Severyna, on Rua Ipiranga (Ipiranga Street Laranjeiras)

Mis a Mis
February 23rd
Where: from Praça XV to Lapa

February 24th
Where: on Arnaldo Quintela and Passagem streets (Botafogo)

Clube do Samba
February 24th and 27th
Where: Av. Rio Branco, between Pres. Vargas Avenue and Cinelândia (downtown)

Cordão do Bola Preta
February 24th
Where: downtown streets, starting in front of Bola Preta (13 de Maio street)

Dois Pra Lá Dois Pra Cá
February 24th
Where: Rua da Passagem (Botafogo) and Copacabana

Bloco de Segunda
February 26th
Where: Botafogo (on Cobal)

Rancho Carnavalesco Flor do Sereno
February 26th
Where: Av. Atlântica, by Posto 6