Samba schools gear up for Carnival 2017 

The Portela and Unidos de Tijuca samba schools have a practice session at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro.

RIO DE JANEIRO (REUTERS) - Just days before Rio de Janeiro's samba schools hit the runway in the world's largest carnival parades, the Portela and Unidos de Tijuca samba schools ran through a practice exercise Sunday at the famed Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro. 

Entrance to practice sessions are free. 

Carnival 2017 will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the movement. 

The Portela samba school came into the Sambadrome for its technical practice session with a nautical theme, "Who doesn't want this river to flow?" 

Members of the legendary school were feeling good vibrations. 

"It's the greatest, and the excitement goes from the prior Carnival, and for this year it only goes up. Portela!" said member, Alexis Marcelino. 

The school was among the final six in the competition last year, and the members were looking to make 2017 their year. 

"We are at Carnival to be champions. Portela is fighting for this great title," said Portela member, Camila Nacimento. 

The Unidos de Tijuca also took their turn in the Sambadrome singing the song, "The music of the soul inspired a nation." 

"If God chooses our procession again, once more our performance will be impeccable and we will win this Carnival," said Unidos de Tijuca member, Patricia Shelida. 

Carnival is a platform for Rio de Janeiro's Afro-Brazilian communities to project their often marginalized culture on the world stage, with frequent appearances of syncretic African and Brazilian deities and themes. 

Carnival 2017 will run from Feb 24 to Mar 1.