Essence of Carnival, Trinidadian style

Yawu Miller | 8/18/2011, 4:08 p.m.
Ronald Blaize stands near a section of his latest Carnival costume. When completed, it will be 18 feet high and weigh more than 100 pounds. Yawu Miller

One of Ronald Blaize’s earliest memories is being woken up on the evening of Carnival.

“I was a kid,” Blaize says. “About five years old. My parents say I used to love to see Carnival.”

The images of men and women in brightly decorated costumes and dancing to the thumping calypso beats was too much to miss.

“I ran out to see it and I saw the Indians running up the road,” he says. “I saw Sampson and Delilah. There were Philistines. It had an impact. It took root in my mind.”

Blaize’s love affair with Carnival has stayed with him though several jobs, two marriages and countless costumes, including the winning entry in this year’s carnival, Tsunami, a massive tidal wave-themed costume 45 feet across and 28 feet high.

“I believe it was the biggest costume ever built,” he says.

A master at designing costumes, welding together their frames and dressing them in dazzling fabrics, Blaize is now applying his creative energy to Boston’s Carnival, where he plans to enter a gladiator-themed costume for TnT Social Club’s entry in this year’s competition.

Working with a team of artisans in TnT’s mas camp — an outdoor workshop where costumes are put together — Blaize’s creation is taking shape.

“The theme this year is Survivors of the Arena,” he says. “When they told me that, I reflected on the movie ‘300.’ The soldiers in that movie weren’t in the arena, but I like the colors — the red robes and the bronze. I named this costume the Spartan Gladiator.”

The costume is in pieces in TnT’s mas camp, a paved-over backyard of band leader Errol Phillips’ triple-decker on Glen Road in Jamaica Plain. Pieces of the costumes frame are laid out on large tables.

Two large 18-foot sections, with cutout figures of Greek warriors attached, are stretched out on the asphalt. The whole camp is protected from the rain by a large, 20-foot-high roof.

When finished, the costume will be 18 feet high and weigh more than 100 pounds. The steel frame will ride on three wheels. The dancer is attached to the costume with a harness that fits over his shoulders. When he dances with the costume, the frame tilts back on the two rear wheels so the entire costume can move up and down with his motions.

The costume will be entered in the King and Queen Show next Thursday, Aug. 25 at the Reggie Lewis Center. During this event, a panel of judges flown in from Trinidad will select the official king and queen of the Boston Carnival.

On Saturday, Aug.27 during Carnival, the entire TnT contingent, five sections with dozens of dancers, will compete against other bands, including D’Midas International, Soca and Associates, Dynasty Production and D’Horizon Mas, as they march along the half-mile-long parade route.

The largest costumes are the king and the queen, each of whom performs with a section of dancers with smaller costumes. A band will typically have five sections, each with a slightly different theme and color palette.