The Flag-Bearer or Porta Bandeira Element in the Carnival of Brazil

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The Flag-Bearer or Porta Bandeira Element in the Carnival of Brazil Powered By Docstoc
					In this article, we will describe a marvelous element within the parades and Brazilian
Carnaval festivity: the "Porta-bandeira", pronounced [porta bandayeera] and
translated here to Flag-Bearer. Below, you will understand why this magnetic parades
figure is able to symbolize the essence and honor of the Carnaval culture. The
Porta-Bandeira, along with the Mestre-Sala figure, can definitely represent the highest
distinction to individuals who have devoted their career and lives to Carnaval and
Samba in Brazil.

First, let us take a look at some of the main functions, attributes and characteristics of
the "Porta-Bandeira" which in brief, has the delicate task to present to samba
enthusiasts and judging panel, the Samba-School´s banner during an official
carnival parade. For the benefit of new samba fan readers, lets us first recall what is a
samba-school banner. Each samba-school (just like any country) has a flag which
ultimately symbolizes itself in rehearsals, official events and the parade. (The flag -
bandeira in Portuguese, is also sometimes referred to as Pavilhão, in
Portuguese). As an example, traditional Mangueira Samba-School has a green and
pink colored looking flag, with its full name "Estação Primeira de
Mangueira" written on it. ) See also in Samba-Schools tab, the Flags/Banners of Rio
de Janeiro Samba-Schools.

During every carnaval contest in Brazil, each samba-school must obligatorily have a
person which will carry its banner during the official carnaval parade in February
/March. This person (woman by definition) is the Flag-Bearer. The
Porta-bandeira´s specific duty is then to wave and swirl the samba-school
banner in graceful but determined way through the runway, while the Mestre-Sala, her
escort, offers 'protection'.

The "Porta-Bandeira element" is a class of its own in a samba-school parade. She is
the focus point, the icon figure where everyone looks upon (and certainly never
forgets). The first major differentiating aspect of a Flag-bearer amongst other samba
dancers / elements in a carnaval parade is her dressing. The Flag-bearer has extremely
exuberant and luxurious Carnaval costumes. Sometimes a single flag-bearer costume
can cost up to US$ 40,000. In terms of carnaval costumes, the area where carnaval
directors invest the greatest amount of money, time and detail, is surely the
Porta-Bandeira. They definitely want to impress and show how the samba-school is
not economical. The logic behind is that if the general look of the Porta-bandeira is
impoverished, second-grade, this could be a synonym that the samba-school is also
deficient, below par. In exchange, if the Flag-bearer costume is extremely
glamorously done, with precious items etc; the samba-school would be prosperous too.
The wealthier the samba school, greater is the investment done in the development
and creation of this specific costume in a parade.

Another distinguishing point to observe in Porta-Bandeira (but also the Mestre-Sala);
is the fact she does not dance the traditional samba-dance, but perform a smooth
ballet-kind of choreography at the parade. As some samba-dance experts' note: "As
example, they spin around each other in systematic swirls combined with elegant
gestures." During the official parade, the Flag-bearer earns points for her lightness,
grace and presumptuous attitude. The Flag-Bearer must carry the banner all through
the parade, which in Rio de Janeiro lasts for 90 minutes. Also, the Flag-Bearer kisses
the Samba-School´s Flag a few times during a parade, in a sign of honor and
pride for being the fundamental representation of the samba-school. All of this ritual
though, would be incomplete without the presence of the second element we will
describe here: the Mestre-Sala, or Samba-Host.

Both "porta-bandeira" / mestre-sala roles in the carnival culture can really mean the
top of a career and life devoted to samba. Most couples you see at Rio de Janeiro and
São Paulo carnaval parades have probably been dancing and practicing samba
for at least 15-20 years. They usually start practicing for that specific function very
young, at the ages of 8-10 years and gradually move up the samba-school hierarchy.
Many of them are direct descendants of the true founders of carnaval and samba in
Brazil. The couples develop their skills and experience, hoping one day to belong to
become the "couple number 1", from one of the 12 most important samba-schools of
Rio. The achievement of these positions would naturally bring them fame and glory.

Some Interesting Facts of these Samba Professionals:

* Today, due to the professionalization of Brazilian Carnival, we can find specific
teachings for this type of choreography, where they can enhance their dance, artistic,
and even acting skills.

* In a major samba-school parade, you can have up to 3 couples of Mestre-Sala /
Porta-Bandeira per school. The official carnival judges naturally only rate the best
couple and logically the most qualified of the school, called appropriately the "first

* The second and even third couples also play significant roles during the official
contest. They are the future generations of these specific functions and take the
opportunity of the official event to gain experience, charisma, graciousness so that
one day they can become "couple number 1".

* Today, a Porta-Bandeira´s contracts can be quite expensive, since
samba-schools fight to obtain the best professionals.

* Many of today´s Flag-Bearers, are grand-daughters of the first
Porta-bandeiras of the Brazilian Carnaval. Normally, they have tight connections with
the community / samba-school they were raised in.

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