LOZANO, ROY (1954–1994). Roy Lozano was a dancer, choreographer, and the co-founder and director of the Roy Lozano’s Ballet Folklórico de Texas, a dance company located in Austin. He was born to Amadeo P. Lozano and Berta (Garza) Lozano in Alice, Texas, on February 23, 1954, and was one of five children. He grew up in Corpus Christi and attended Christ the King Catholic School there. As a child, Lozano accompanied his father, who played professional baseball with the Mexican League, throughout Mexico each summer. During these travels, the younger Lozano became interested in the regional music and dances of Mexico. Although he conversed with his grandparents in rudimentary Spanish, Lozano did not become fluent in proper Spanish until high school in Corpus Christi, about the time he joined a folklórico dance troupe.
While attending the University of Texas at Austin as a pre-med biology major, Lozano founded a ballet folklórico troupe in 1975. During his senior year at the university in 1977, he attended a performance of the Ballet Folklórico de Mexico, the preeminent Mexican folklórico dance company. Inspired, he bluffed his way backstage after the performance, demanded and got an audition with the company’s director, and gained a place with the company. He toured with the group and studied dance in Mexico City for several years before returning to Austin. In addition to training with Ballet Folklórico de Mexico director Amalia Hernandez, Lozano studied dance under Sylvia Lozano, Tizoc Fuentes-Yaco, Alura Flores, and Beatriz Rincón.
In 1982 Lozano was back in Austin and founded Roy Lozano’s Ballet Folklórico de Texas with the support of a dozen women, including Emma Barrientos, Delia Ruiz, and Diana Gorham. For the first three years, Lozano supported himself as a waiter and funded the company’s costumes with tips and savings. By 1985 he started directing the company and its dance school full-time. Lozano continued to travel throughout Mexico and sought more regional dances, music, and costumes for the company’s repertoire. By 1990 the troupe had thirty-five members.
Under Lozano’s direction, the company performed regularly for Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis de Septiembre celebrations, at dance festivals, for charitable events, and even for the Queen of England’s visit to Austin and the Capitol in 1991. Lozano also taught folklórico dance in the Austin Independent School District as well as conducted dance workshops internationally.
Dependent on donations, grants, and ticket revenue, Lozano’s company did not have its own studio until 1990. His insistence on high quality—authentic costumes specific to the dance and region being represented—continually challenged the company’s budget. Lozano’s peers in the dance community admired his artistry and perfectionism in planning and executing shows with professional quality dancing, lighting, costumes, music, choreography, and sets. By the time of the company’s tenth anniversary in 1992, the group had received the Community Service Award from the Mexican-American State Comptrollers Association, claimed top billing at the Austin Festival of Dance, and conducted its first international collaboration, with the Russian dance troupe Zoriushka. In 1992 Lozano’s company also taught more than seventy-five children.
Diagnosed with AIDS in 1991, Lozano remained relatively healthy until January 1994, when he was hospitalized with pneumonia. Despite his illness, Lozano continued to direct the company from his hospital bed. Lozano died of AIDS-related pneumonia in Austin, Texas, on March 4, 1994, just after his fortieth birthday. A funeral Mass was held at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, and he was buried in Assumption Cemetery in Austin.
Before his death, Lozano received awards and commendations for his work from several arts organizations, both houses of the Texas legislature, Governor Ann Richards, and the city of Austin. Later in 1994 the League of United Latin American Citizens posthumously awarded Lozano its Hispanic Leadership Award for his achievements in the arts. Austin mayor Bruce Todd declared August 27, 1994, to be “Roy Lozano Day.” A year later his dance company received its own honor when August 27, 1995, was declared “Roy Lozano’s Ballet Folklórico de Texas Day.” In 2013 Roy Lozano’s Ballet Folklórico de Texas celebrated its thirtieth year of performances.
Austin American-Statesman, May 4, 1989; March 1, 1990; September 15, 1990; May 21, 1991; August 22, 1992; November 7, 1992; March 5, 7, 1994; May 28, 1994; August 23, 2013. “Our History and Mission,” Roy Lozano’s Ballet Folklórico de Texas (http://www.balletfolkloricodetexas.com/about/our-history-mission), accessed August 20, 2019. Roy Lozano’s Ballet Folklórico de Texas (AR.2012.013), Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
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