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Rachel Levin
Dance and the City
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The Queen Mary

Dance and the City - Next Year in Rio: Brazilian Carnaval at the Queen Mary's Aquadome

by Rachel Levin
February 14, 2005
The Queen Mary
1126 Queen's Highway
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 435-3511

Dance and the City - Next Year in Rio: Brazilian Carnaval at the Queen Mary's Aquadome

By Rachel Levin

What is the defining moment or ritual of coupledom? When do you go from simply "dating" to being coupled? Declaring exclusivity can certainly make you an "item," but to me, you don't cross the line into coupledom until you travel together. This may sound extreme, but consider this: there's something about going somewhere together - giving up your respective home bases to adopt a temporary shared home base - that crystallizes coupledom and allows you for the first time to truly function as a unit. It could be as light as an overnight getaway or as substantial as a trip to spend a holiday with one of your families.

In its own way, dance can be a travel experience. Music and movement can transport you to another culture and bond you as a couple navigating an unfamiliar set of experiences together. My guy and I have recently started taking salsa dance lessons; as our bodies move in new ways, we're developing a vocabulary of movement to which only the two of us have access. We're foreigners in the continent of Latin dance who've agreed to couple on the dance floor - which will undoubtedly help us negotiate the rhythm of our life as a couple.

This weekend's fabulous and extravagant Brazilian Carnaval at the Queen Mary's Aquadome was certainly an opportunity to be transported to another place and time together and to catch the travel bug. My drummer boy and I felt like we were on a journey into a strange land as we navigated the roads of the Long Beach Harbor (sure we were going to take a wrong turn and end up on a cargo dock) and stepped foot inside the cavernous Aquadome - which used to house Howard Hughes' famous Spruce Goose airplane.

Inside, the festive sounds of local singing sensation Katia Moraes - who resembled a bouquet of flowers in her full Carnaval regalia - reverberated through the dome. Footage of samba schools parading down the streets of Rio rolled on huge screens on either side of the stage. During Katia's hour-plus, non-stop set, The Oyé Brazil dancers pleased the crowd with their enchanting sambas and parade of colorful, beaded costumes (or, rather, the skin that the skimpy costumes revealed). Carnaval, traditionally a celebration of hedonism that precedes the restrictive period of Lent, champions pleasure, sensuality, bold color, delicious food and drink, and above all frenzied dancing. How could a young couple not be seduced by Brazil herself?

I've always dreamed of traveling to Brazil, but knew that I wanted to wait until I could go with the right person. To experience it with anyone but your true love seems like an utter waste. That's why I was so excited when, after Katia's set, the organizers of the evening held a raffle for a free trip to Brazil. Everyone had been automatically entered simply by purchasing a ticket, and the raffle numbers were printed on each one. My drummer boy had wandered off to explore the booths selling food, drink, and merchandise, and he was the one who had the tickets. I prayed he'd return to me in time. First, they called out winning numbers for several smaller prizes. The tension mounted as everyone was eager to get to the grand prize. To add to the sense of anticipation, the MCs voice was barely audible. In a muffled voice, she read out the digits for the winning ticket. My eyes searched around frantically for my drummer boy as my ears strained to hear the numbers. I felt like a wedding guest waiting to catch the bouquet and along with it the promise of adventure and coupledom.

There was murmuring and a prolonged pause as everyone scrambled to read their tickets. My guy returned just as she was reading the winning digits for a final time.

"Did we win?" I asked excitedly.

But it was not to be. We'd have to find our own way to Brazil if we wanted to go.

After that, the energy of the evening seemed to drop. Brazilian pop musician Jorge Ben Jor, visiting from Bahia, played a solid set, but he didn't seem able to fill the larger-than-life space of the Aquadome like Katia did. I would have enjoyed his music in a much more intimate setting. It was late, and though we enjoyed our stopover in this fantasy Rio, we were ready to go home.

We grabbed a helium balloon from the party and let it take off into the night sky. We followed it with our eyes until it disappeared. I wondered where the balloon would land and what journeys lay ahead for me and my drummer boy. Next year, if we're lucky, our first as a couple will be Carnaval in Rio.

Katia Moraes at the Queen Mary's Aquadome
Photo courtesy of Patricia Leão

Brazilian Carnaval at the Queen Mary's Aquadome
Photo courtesy of Patricia Leão

Brazilian Carnaval at the Queen Mary's Aquadome
Photo courtesy of Patricia Leão

Jorge Ben Jor and Maisa Duke
Photo courtesy of Patricia Leão

Brazilian Carnaval at the Queen Mary's Aquadome
Photo courtesy of Patricia Leão

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