top of page




Acima, duas fotos tiradas no mesmo local e ângulo com 85 anos de diferença. O Baile do Botafogo em 1930 e o Sarongue de 2015

At the beginning of the 20th century the Carnival balls and costumes proliferated around the city. Mostly, they were organised in athletic clubs like Botafogo AC, América, Bangu, Fluminense and in the theatres. In 1932, the municipality, in partnership with the club “Touring do Brasil”, inaugurated the first official carnival ball in Rio’s Municipal Theatre. Between 1932 to 1975 the Carnival Ball became an annual event in the city’s agenda. In 1964 they welcomed 10,000 party goers. The participation of artists from the School of Fine Arts, which at the time was situated in front of the theatre,  was pivotal in the development of the aesthetics and the themes of the carnival. A new school started in the Scenographic Department of the Theatre, which later also went onto revolutionize the carnival street parties. Rosa Magalhães, Joãozinho Trinta, Fernando Pamplona, Arlindo Rodrigues, among others, worked with the scenographers of the Municipal Theatre, between the operas and ballets, to reinvent carnival.


The story of the Brazilian Carnival balls originated in the middle of 19th Century France, during the reign of the Emperor Napoleon III, where the masquerade ball began


Whilst the uncle, Bonaparte was a warrior, the nephew was a partier.

During the almost two decades of its realm, the monarchy installed a fully fledged regime of parties, transforming European society of the time. In the midst of the Industrial Revolution, the grand salons of the court, for the first time, started opening its door to the rising bourgeoisie. The masquerade ball  facilitated networking, led to marriages, built friendships and business partnerships between the old noble landowners and the new rich industrialists and businessmen.


With the new dynamics of new money, new habits and customs emerged, and a new marriage of industry with entertainment was born. At the turn of the 20th Century, Paris had already become the world’s centre of cabaret. The leading artists of the period were seduced by the new developments, and for the first time created new artistic organisations linked to the Schools of Fine Arts. The balls were thematic. The students and teachers spent months preparing the decorations. The libertarianism and in particular the nude scenes of artistic groups such as the Quarto Z Arts scandalised early 20th Century society.


France was the model of international culture during the Belle Epoque, soon the festive trend came to Brazil. The link between the different Fine Art schools were inevitable, many students of the Rio School completed their studies in France.

Acima, grupos de foliões do Baile parisiense QUAT'Z'ARTS BAL no início do século XX. Os temas anuais evocavam civilizações míticas, da Babilônia ao império Khemer. O evento foi de 1892 a 1966.

In Brazil, the trend gained now cultural nuances.

The painting of “Baile à Fantasia,” by Rodolfo Chambelland, in 1913, where the characters are dancing Maxixe (known as the Brazilian tango), illustrated this artistic connection. The painter, who had attended the Beaux Arts, was the winner of the Salon prize in 1905, the prize was an artist residency at the Julian Academy in Paris, in 1906.

O Baile, Rodolfo Chambelland, 1913

The first ball of Artists in Rio was held in 1918, inspired by the Quart’Z’Arts ball. At that time, the carnival had not yet played its grand role for the Beaux Arts in Rio, however, as the Carnival events proliferated in the city, the frequent participation of teachers, students and alumni in production and creation of the festivities transformed the institution's involvement  not only with carnival, but also as an important cultural movement, linking samba, anthropology and national identity, which occurred during the first decade of the 20th Century.   


Baile dos Artistas, edição de 1921, Revista Fon Fon

In Brazil the municipal ball was the genres leading light.  It ended up having a diary of production similar to the samba school performances, starting in March until carnival in February. They would work practically the whole year round to put on a show for one triumphant day, “Mardi-Gras Monday.”  The ball became seen as one of the major attractions of Rio. Attracting thousands of tourists, and becoming part of the international celebrity circuit.

Carnaval na África, Theatro Municipal, 1958. Pela primeira vez a temática africana ganha atenção nacional no carnaval. O cenógrafo Fernando Pamplona, autor da ousadia, já havia proposto o tema em 1954.

In 1962, there were around 300 balls in the Guanabara neighbourhood alone.

The most famous were the “Rosa de Ouro” in the Gloria Hotel; “uma Noite em Bagdá, in Monte Libano Club; “Vermelho e Preto” in the Flamengo Club, but the largest without question were the galas of the Copacabana Palace Hotel, the Sírio e Libanês; the Ginástico Português; the Mackensie; and the Bangu A.C; each private club had their own carnival balls. The Ball in the Municipal theatre represented the epicentre of the culture of carnival balls and was replicated throughout Brazil until the 1980s.


Na década de 60 havia centenas de bailes somente na Guanabara

Each year, there would be a competition of the best decoration project for the ball. Burle Marx was the winner of the competition to decorate the Municipal ball of 1956 with his theme: Abstractism.

Abstracionismo, de Burle Marx, 1956

The ball that happened in 1964, the year of the military coup, was considered the best in terms of fun, decor, the public and  revenue. In the public record there was close to 10,000 people dancing in the ballroom decorated by Arlindo Rodrigues.

The depth of the crisis of that time was inversely reflected in the carnival. The historical importance of the time was counter-opposed by the spirit of the event - the territory of gender fluidity, social roles and general societal values.

Brasiliana, de Arlindo Rodrigues, 1964

The end of the Municipal Ball of 1975 marked  the start of decline of the traditional balls. The later generations never knew the massive impact of the Carnival Ballroom celebration.

bottom of page