In this, the final year that this 84-year-old school holds its rehearsals in the neighbourhood of Bixiga before moving to its new headquarters downtown, Vai-Vai hopes to return to the winning form that made it Carnival champion back in 2011. This year, it will fill the Sambódromo with the sights and sounds of a theme dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the São Paulo-state countryside town of Paulínia.
The basics The rehearsals are a chance for anyone planning to parade to learn that year’s chosen song (samba-enredo), for the drummers to master their rhythms, for the dancers to get in step, and for the neighbourhoods to start the celebrations. But don’t let the term ‘rehearsal’ confuse you – a samba school ensaio is as much a party as a chance for the school to practice, and everyone is welcome for a cover fee. They can be crowded, sometimes slightly chaotic events, so take care to work out beforehand how you’re getting home, and leave valuables behind.