The 15th annual San Diego Brazilian Mardi Gras Ball, as it's known, is all set to go down at 4th & B, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. All of the pulsing percussion, alluring Samba and color one expects will be on hand, as "carnavalescos" will dance to the rhythms of samba, Batucada, marcha, Axe music Frevo, samba-reggae and Carnaval Electrico.
SambaDa, featuring vocalist Dahnda da Hora from Bahia, Brazil, plus special guests Marcio Peter and Wagner Abuter, provide these very sounds.
In addition to the music, capoeira from local group Capoeira Brasil, parades and Mardi Gras beads will figure prominently. Between 1,500 and 2,000 people are expected to attend. According to organizers, San Diego Brazil Carnaval has developed the reputation as being one of the largest and most authentic Carnaval celebrations outside Brazil. It signals the start of San Diego's Carnaval Mardi Gras Celebration that culminates with the Gaslamp Mardi Gras Parade on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 20.
For organizer Christine Portella, who is Brazilian, the event is especially personal.
"I was born in Rio de Janeiro, so I take a lot of pride in this event, because for me, the fact that I'm not in Rio celebrating it there is hard enough, so being able to bring that experience here is just absolutely fantastic," she said.
"Carnaval is a celebration of life," said Portella. "It's officially four days, but it's actually a month of celebration. And Saturday is when it begins." Thus, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday in French, is the last official day of Carnaval. But as Portella said, it all begins on Saturday.
Perhaps what sets Carnaval apart, however, is the seemingly effortless participatory nature of the event.
"What a lot of people tell me when they experience Carnaval for the first time [is ask], "˜Am I gonna sit and watch a show?'" said Portella. "And I say, there's no such thing as sit-and-watch. You are a part of Carnaval. That's what makes the experience so unique, because it is impossible for you to sit down and watch. The rhythms and the percussion and the music is contagious."
When asked about the authenticity of the show compared to what one might find in Brazil, Portella simply responds, "I'm from Rio; what would you think?" She strives to be as real "in every single detail, as much as I can," according to Portella. "I feel very fortunate that there is a lot of local talent here from Brazil. My dancers are from Brazil. I'd have a hard time getting these dancers in Brazil," for example.
Authenticity is also reflected in the decorations and drinks "“ which will include the Brazilian favorite, caipirinhas "“ along with Brahma beer, an import from "“ you guessed it "“ Brazil.
With this in mind, San Diego Carnaval is a 21-and-up event. For more information, visit www. brazilcarnival.com.