With my beautiful new Muse dress fitting snuggly on my sun-kissed Rio body, my hair lacquered with glitter and my performance make-up on pointe, I strut confidently towards the Sambadrome, winding through the back streets of Rio, oblivious to the fact that the streets smell like urine and there’s rubbish overflowing everywhere (in part thanks to recent street bloco parties and moreover because the Sambadrome is located in one of the dodgiest areas of Rio – happy tourist fact!)
Nothing can dampen my mood now that the drama of finding a dress for the tech rehearsal is behind me and I am about to step onto the Samba avenue for the first time as the very first Australian Muse in the history of Rio Carnival.
I feel like BEYONCE!
When most girls dream of one day having a fairytale wedding, I have dreamt of being a Rio Samba Muse for the past 15 years.
As each year passed and I paraded in the general aisles of the Rio Carnival as a pineapple or Roman gladiator, or on a float as a witch or whore-house Madam (yes, it happened!), I felt that I was ultimately getting closer to realising my dream of becoming a Muse.
Each time I was on the avenue surrounded by people, Brazilians and foreigners alike, who were making their way down the Sambadrome in ridiculously oversized costumes and ill-fitting shoes, jumping up and down rather than actually dancing, my heart broke a little more.
I am a dancer. I want to dance. I don’t simply want to jump up and down the avenue with the rest of the school. I want to SAMBA.
So I started to enquire. What does it take to be a Muse?
Oh querida, you will never be a Muse – you are a gringa!
Oh honey, those positions are only for celebrities.
Oh darling, you have to be one of the President’s ‘favourites’ for that to happen.
So every year I returned to Rio as just another eggplant, court-jester or sea creature.
I would sit at the front of the avenue with my tour groups, plastering on a smile whilst watching the magnificence of the parade and the glamourous, illustrious, mysterious group of Muses, secretly devastated that I couldn’t express myself out on the avenue as a main dancer and join their inner circle.
After all, I was a gringa. A foreigner who had fallen desperately in love with a culture that wasn’t hers, much to the bemusement, and at times frustration, of her family and friends, and who had spent her life’s savings and business earnings travelling back and forth to Rio for the past decade in order to immerse herself in the language, culture and dances of the Cidade do Samba. (City of Samba)
Whilst friends were getting married, buying houses and popping out babies, I continued my love affair with the cidade maravilhosa (Marvellous City as Rio is known), and like a typical love affair, it’s had its moments of absolute bliss and absolute heartbreak.
Tonight was NOT going to be one of those heartbreaks.
I finally did it. I am here. I am a Muse.
I make my way to the concentracao (marshalling area) of the Sambadrome, and ask the Director of Harmonia (in charge of the entire parade) where to go.
He looks at me blankly.
Quem e voce? (Who are you?)
I am the Muse of the abre alas (opening float).
He continues to stare at me without saying a thing.
I repeat myself, thinking perhaps he hasn’t understood me.
He mumbles something in Portuguese and looks over his shoulder, signalling to a beautiful woman in a glittering dress standing between the drummers.
Ela e a musa de abre alas. (She is the Muse for the opening float).
Ummmm no….I am the Muse of the opening float.
I signed a contract. I paid a fortune for this. I have been at all of your street rehearsals in this exact position.
Don’t you remember me?
Querida, I manage 5000 people in this school. Do you really think I’d remember you?
Well, yes, because I am the only gringa and Internaional Muse for your school.
He looks at me again, shrugs his shoulders and walks off.
I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. I cannot breathe. What is going on?
I look around but it’s total chaos – people rushing into position, men pushing floats, drummers warming up, passistas practising their sequences. I don’t recognize a single face. I try to call my agent but she doesn’t answer. I spot the Director of the Passistas but she has no idea either.
I am all alone. In my Cinderella dress. With no ball to go to.
The tears start to well in my eyes as I try to talk to myself calmly.
It will be ok. Someone will recognize me. Someone will lead me to my position. Someone will realise they’ve made a mistake and have the wrong girl in my place.
No one does. Time passes and I can’t move. People are now screaming and shouting around me, panicking to get everyone into line to begin.
I see my nemesis limbering up, stretching her lovely long legs and warming up her hips to the bateria (drum squad).
Who is she? And why is she in my position?
I can’t wait anymore. I decide to take matters into my own hands.
I walk up to her, put on my sweetest smile and say hello. She responds with a smile and I ask her name.
Ola Gabriela, nice to meet you! What position are you today?
I am the Muse of the opening float. My boyfriend is the Director of Harmonia – he put me here and I’m so excited.
I continue to smile while my blood starts to boil.
Just as I start to prepare my best punching moves, my agent arrives.
I blab out the story and to her credit, she immediately launches at this poor girl, claws out and steam coming from her nostrils.
I step out onto the avenue as the first International Muse of the opening float in my beautiful Cinderella dress.
I really am Sasha Fierce (or at least my agent is!)
Have you read the other blogs in this series?