Cultura en Austin is a monthly column highlighting Latino-related cultural events in Austin. Look for it on the last Friday of the month.
Honoring an Austin trailblazer
On Cinco de Mayo, Austin lost one of its cultural warriors. That’s how some community members described Rodolfo Mendez, founder of the trailblazing Ballet East Dance Company, who died at 74 after a battle with cancer.
Mendez, whom many knew as Rudy, grew up in Austin and was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2006. Trained as a ballet, flamenco and folkloric dancer, Mendez guided several generations of dance leaders and brought the arts to underserved communities.
At the time of his passing, family and friends spoke of his “flair for life” and making sure that memorial plans to honor him were representative of his joyful spirit. Now — in addition to a traditional mass at 11 a.m on June 4 at Santa Julia Catholic Church, followed by internment — the community is invited to an evening celebrating his life and legacy.
The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center will host a public celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 2 including special performances dedicated to Mendez’s artistic work and contributions to Austin’s cultural arts community.
Guests are invited to gather at the center’s courtyard for a reception in his honor, followed by performances to be announced in the auditorium. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Ballet East online at dwy.io/balleteast.
Music on the lake
Float on a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard while soaking up some Latin music rhythms this summer at the Latino Moonlight Serenades on Lady Bird Lake.
Participants float to a quiet area on lake, bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks and enjoy live music by some of Austin’s most talented Latin music artists. On June 14, catch a performance by Spanglish pop songstress Lesly Reynaga, who was also Austin360’s January Artist of the Month.
Reynaga, a former University of Texas mariachi soloist, grew up in Monterrey, Mexico. Her latest EP, “Dual Passport,” includes immigration as a key theme.
The Latino Moonlight Serenades offer a unique opportunity to discover local musicians or enjoy your favorite ones. Mark your calendar for other serenades this summer: July 12 features the tango band Hora Once, and Aug. 16 highlights world music group Atash.
Check-in begins at 6:15 p.m at the Texas Rowing Center, and launch happens at 7 p.m. Advanced reservations at texasrowingcenter.com are encouraged. Cost ranges from $12-$15 per person.
Ode to a musical legend
When you think of Brazil’s bossa nova music, the classic song “The Girl from Ipanema” might come to mind. One of the song’s co-composers was Antônio Carlos “Tom” Jobim, a talented musician and composer who helped pioneer the musical style that became influential in American jazz and pop music and sparked a bossa nova craze in the U.S. during the 1960s.
Now Paula Maya, an Austin-based Brazilian singer-songwriter and musician, honors the legendary composer with a four-city performance of “61 Years of Bossa Nova: The Music of Tom Jobim.”
Maya, who was named Best Brazilian Musician living in the U.S. in 2016, has long been part of Austin’s growing Brazilian music scene. Her June 16 performance in Austin is presented by Yellow House Records as well as the monthly cultural art event Café con Letras, which takes place every third Sunday of the month at the Blackerby Recital Hall (1111 W. Anderson Lane).
Maya launched her tribute to Jobim concerts last year and performed it in both Austin and Rio de Janeiro to much success. This year’s Texas concert stops are in Houston, Fredericksburg and San Antonio.
Doors for the Austin show open at 7 p.m. and $10 tickets will be available at the door.