RECIFE, Brazil (AP) – Jelly-limbed dancers with tiny multicolored umbrellas, frolicking to frenetic frevo rhythms, make carnival in this Brazilian coastal city unique and for residents second to none.

Recife’s frevo music – which is accompanied by a frantic tip-toe dance in which participants leap into midair splits and fold themselves like contortionists as they land – forms a carnival tradition distinct from the better-known samba.

While Rio de Janeiro’s famed Samba parade, which takes place Sunday and Monday nights, is broadcast to millions of adoring fans, Recife’s bash is perhaps Brazil’s best kept secret. Late Sunday, the two traditions will meet in Rio de Janeiro’s Sambadrome stadium where Mangueira, one of Brazil’s best loved samba groups, will sing Recife’s praises.

“By paying for Mangueira’s parade we are bringing national and international media attention for our carnival, which is the most democratic in Brazil and free to all,” said Recife Mayor Joao Paulo Lima Silva, explaining the $1.7 million expense to the city’s coffers and about a tenth of its annual carnival budget.

In recent years, revelers turned off by Rio’s commercialism and tired of being confined to the stands have begun looking elsewhere to cities like Salvador da Bahia – where supermodel Naomi Campbell and music producer Quincy Jones are celebrating this year.

Those in search of a more intimate carnival have been heading to Recife and the neighboring colonial hilltop town of Olinda.

Here, the vibrantly colored costumes and huge puppets may be dwarfed by the Rio’s gargantuan floats and armies of uniformed dancers, but the lack of pomp is compensated for by the proximity.

Recife also offers up a potpourri of rhythms with names that seem to flow from poetry, like “maracatu,” “cabolco,” “coco” and “ciranda.”

“Mangueira has kneeled before a carnival that is totally original and chocked full of culture. In Rio’s there’s just one, Samba,” explains Alceu Valenca, a Brazilian popular musician and fixture of Olinda’s carnival.

That may be so, but in Recife one carnival rhythm stands above all the others and that is frevo.

On Saturday, an estimated 1.5 million revelers turned out for the “Galo de Madrugada,” or Midnight Rooster, in Recife’s city center where a procession of frevo bands wow the crowds with the fast-paced marching band music that recalls Dixieland jazz.

Frevo is celebrating its centenary this year and Mangueira’s theme samba this year is fittingly titled, “100 Years of Frevo, It’s Enough to Lose Your Shoe.”

“Frevo is the maximum expression of carnival, there’s nothing like frevo and if we can put a minuet into our samba, we can certainly incorporate frevo,” said Mangueira’s carnival designer, Max Lopes.

Parades with themes honoring their sponsors are nothing new at Rio’s carnival, but Sunday may be the first time the Samba parade honored another city’s celebrations. By adding a dash of frevo to their samba, Mangueira runs the risk of displeasing the parade’s tradition-bound judges.

Rio’s madness and mayhem is actually a fierce competition with groups are graded on everything from the their songs to the costumes to the floats to how well they manage to hustle their 4,000-plus dancers through the stadium in their allotted 80 minutes.

Recife’s mayor will travel to Rio Sunday to participate in the parade along with other figures from Pernambuco’s carnival, such as frevo master Spok.

The next day Mangueira will return the favor sending a contingent of dancers to Recife.

“I think its marvelous that the story of frevo is being told. It’s a rhythm that’s as important as samba, just less well known, not only abroad but here in Brazil as well,” said Spok.


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