"There's an old, old expression--they say God is Brazilian," said WMAL radio personality Felix Grant at the ninth annual Brazilian Carnival Saturday night. "I believe it, just for the fact that it snowed yesterday, instead of today."
Despite the mounds of snow piled up outside the Shoreham Hotel, the Regency Ballroom was the hottest spot in Washington, sizzling and steaming with the sounds of the samba and the shrill shriek of party whistles, as the District of Columbia Partners of Brasilia presented their version of Brazil's traditional carnival for a smaller-than-usual but no less enthusiastic crowd. The relieved Grant was chairman and master of ceremonies for the event, which helps pay for the organization's cultural and educational exchange programs.
Grant's wife, June, had sewn borders of silver sequins on the bow tie and lapels of his black tuxedo, and on her own black blouse and gaucho hat. "It's most unusual for him to wear something like this," June Grant confided. "He's not the sequin type."
"A lot of these people would come out for this if they had to crawl over snowdrifts," said Grant, while her husband fussed and fretted over the late start of Dom Um Romao and his 14-piece samba band, which drove here by bus from New York.
But, as usual, the preheated crowd didn't wait for the music to begin. Led by a band of pirates in shredded black hot pants, white midriff shirts with skull and crossbones, and red silk bandannas, they stamped, whistled, chanted and danced to their own rhythm 'til the band caught up with them, and didn't stop 'til early morning.
"Seems like the cold weather made people keep more clothes on than usual," said Dennis Coleman, who arrived from Oakton in white tie and tails, with black-and-white arrows painted on his face. The cold and snow didn't seem to faze Rick McCue, a burly Marine who drove with four buddies from Quantico to dance in nothing but a printed sarong and sneakers.
"I don't have no name tonight!" yelled one exuberant dancer, whose bare shoulders sparkled with gold dust above her black off-the-shoulder blouse and rainbow-colored streamer skirt. She was later revealed to be Creusa Leary, an artist from Rio de Janeiro, now living in Bowie, Md. This was Leary's sixth American carnival, and, waving her arms, which were covered with bangle bracelets from wrist to elbow, she performed her annual tabletop dance with abandon.
As the throbbing tempos rose and fell, long chains of costumed dancers snaked and shimmied in ecstatic circles around the ballroom floor, like a Brazilian bunny hop. Some dancers, obviously first-timers, executed their sambas with a decidedly New Wave twist.