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Baianas Wing – “Ala

das Baianas” at the

Brazilian Carnaval

Above, an impressive shot by Agencia FOTO BR´s team, from a

typical Baiana from Unidos da Tijuca 2010 parade.

by Andre Skowronski from

Rio de Janeiro, June 30th 2010

The mythical Baianas are one of the most known characters of the
Brazilian Carnaval and surely represent the utmost samba tradition
and authenticity (aside with the Flag-Bearers and Samba-hosts).
Foreigners and Brazilians simply fall under a spell when they „float‟
through the Sambadrome´s runaway.

Some of the Baianas, having more than 90 years old, still show
plenty of vigor and charisma, as they are reverenced by public and
samba-school members themselves.

The Baianas are respected not only by their age and costume
distinctness, but principally because of the ritualistic folklore they
symbolize. In this section of, we will briefly
describe the unmistakable element of the „Baianas‟ at the Brazilian
Carnival culture.

Below, an amazing photo of a Baiana from Alexandre Vidal / Foto BR

Agency. All of the vigor of the Carnival Baiana was captured.

Photo Credit: Agencia FOTO BR

Carnival historians note the origins of the Baianas are dated before
the samba-schools existed. They probably came from days Brazil
was still a colony from Portugal, when the “Taieiras”, black women
dressed up as Baianas, formed a special guard in honor in the Nossa
Senhora do Rosário and Saint Benedict (King‟s Day - January 6th)

Moving to Carnaval in Rio, when the Samba-Schools were organized

in the late 1920´s, the Baianas were introduced because of their
profane-religious character, and thus became „mandatory elements‟.
They provided the incipient samba-schools a kind of spiritual-religious

Below, the energy and pride of a Baiana wing member, swirling with
a richly produced characteristic costume.

At the photo above by Agencia FOTO BR, we can see the magical dance of the
Baianas: Credits: Alexandre Vidal, Ari Versiani, Fernando Azevedo, Levy Ribeiro, Luiz

Slowly, the Baianas figure gained more and more respect and
authority by Samba-School directors. According to testimonials
of Caetano, Tia Vicentina, and Doralice, three elders from
traditional Portela Samba-School, the Baianas „formed voice
choirs and had influence in the choice of the best sambas that
would be sung in the rehearsal courts‟. Isnard and Candeia
(authors of the book called Escola de Samba) also point into
this direction: “Paulo da Portela (one of the founders of Portela
Samba-School - all time winner of Rio de Janeiro Carnaval
contests) listened to the Baianas choir before defining the
sambas to be sung in the parades”. Again, the Baianas
represented not only the image of respect, but of wisdom too.
Still on the origins of this quintessential element of the
Brazilian Carnaval, we could find historical notations in
Brazilian Literature. Manuel Antônio de Almeida, a great
Brazilian author of the 19th century, described in his book
„Memoirs of a Militia Sergeant‟, the presence of the Baianas in
religious festivals in 1930´s :

“corporation present in several processions, which used to

go on the parade as a big group, and walked ahead the
procession, attracting more, or as the saints, the stands,
the sacred signs, the devotees eyes… black women
dressed as the women from the province of Bahia and
who danced in the intervals of the “Deo-gratias”, a special
and extravagant dance.”

Above, tia (aunt) Ciata and Tia ( Aunt ) JoSefa , two of the first
Carnival Baianas and samba promoters in Rio. These elderly Baianas
were respected and organized musical soirees in the early 1900´s.
The first samba music was recorded at her house.

Moving up at the time-scale, at the early days of the carnaval in Rio

do Janeiro, Baianas were also present. Ironically or not, the Baianas
where in reality men dressed up in „Baianas-style costumes‟ at the
samba schools. There was a reason for this, protection: The
„Baianas-men‟ were lined up on the sideways of the parades, and had
to defend the school from the violence suffered when rival groups
met. The Baianas-men brought razors attached to their legs, under
their costumes, and defend themselves, as well as the samba-

Later, as parades became less marginal and gained minimum of

stability, such „Baianas-de-linha‟ were replaced by ropes for the
samba-school´s protection. When Baianas were no longer queued on
the sideways of the parade, an exclusive wing was created for them
and they continued to participate thereafter at the parades.

Agencia FOTO BR - Protected by Law

Today, the Baianas wings are exclusively composed of women, and

there is a specific regulation for their “parading performance” during
the official Rio and São Paulo carnaval contests. The Baianas wings
are not judged separately, but have mandatory presence at the
official contest. Now let us take a look of some of today‟s
distinguishing attributes and characteristics:
• Their movement is made of out of spins, being more constant or
with intervals, depending on the stimulus and the choreography
rehearsed by them or by the responsible wing director. There are
several kinds of choreographies specific for their wing, like: “Zigzag”
(constant evolution by the school), “movement in column” by a
compact group, as “side movement” by the school, “side change”,
with constant spins.

Below the traditional Baianas´wing from Mangueira Samba-School with their

characteristic zig-zag 'dance' at Rio´s Sambadrome.

Photo Credit: Agencia FOTO BR

• The Baianas in general have no fix position, although they must

advance through the runway always in block, compact formation.

• The Baianas costumes are typical, have a class of its own, and
do not need to be linked to theme. They may be made in the colors
of the school, or not. Their costumes resembles early 20th century
“samba aunts”

• They first registered appearance in carnaval parade happened in

1930, as way to pay homage to the “old aunts”, who pioneered
samba singing during its prohibition days.
• During the 1940´s and 1950´s, the presence of men at the
Baianas wing was widespread. Only in 1990, the Carnaval League
that manages the official carnaval contest in Rio de Janeiro, decide
to ban this practice.

• The Carnaval League that runs the parade today is studying to

include a specific judging criterion for the Baianas section.

Below, another moment of pure emotion, the tears in the eyes of

the Baiana at Rio´s Sambadrome: Can´t get better than this!

Photo Credit: Agencia FOTO BR