Happy end after tears for Brazil's dancing queen (7)
Julia Lira, Rio's seven-year-old Carnival drum corps queen, didn't like one bit of the cameras that honed in on her as she led a lavish samba parade, and reacted as any child might -- by having a good cry.
But the sprite of a samba dancer did her best to brush away the tears, and after a few minutes of holding her mother's hand and resting in the arms of a doting official, she returned in front of the crowd to dance early yesterday.
The samba parades -- which pit 12 top-tier groups against one another in a competition that is closely watched by millions throughout the country -- began Sunday evening and didn't stop until the sun rose yesterday morning.
Last night the final six went before the cheering crowds of 80,000.
Dressed in a sequinned halter top and a miniskirt made of purple feathers, young Julia tentatively stepped through the first 50 metres of the parade. Her father -- the president of Viradouro -- then took her by the hand and presented her to the crowd. She smiled big for the photographers and adoring fans.
But 10 minutes into the group's presentation and surrounded by dozens of photographers and television cameramen, the youngster broke down in tears and was immediately taken away from the attention.
"She just got scared after having all those cameras thrust in her face," Hurtado said after the parade.
While Julia bounced back and began to samba at the helm of the parade, television coverage steered clear of showing any more shots of her.
Some in the audience thought she was not ready for the spotlight.
"She is too young to be a drum corps queen," said Marister Deniz (60). "A girl that size shouldn't be thrust in such a role."
But Jorge Elias Souza, a member of the Viradouro drum corps, said he was proud of the girl regardless.
"She is the embodiment of all the love in our school," he said.
Putting Julia in the Carnival role drew the ire of child welfare advocates who were against a young girl taking on a role normally reserved for sultry models and actresses.
Carlos Nicodemos, director of the Rio de Janeiro state Council for the Defense of Children and Adolescents, two weeks ago asked a judge to keep Julia from dancing, arguing that "what we can't allow is putting a seven-year-old girl in a role that traditionally for carnival has a very sexual focus".
A judge ruled last week that the girl could join the parade.