Austin Mom Writes Book In Tribute To Ballet Dancer Son
April 3, 2020
AUSTIN, TX — Anna Bauereis vividly remembers the first time she saw her son at his first ballet dance recital. His form was flawless — a proper stance fully achieved in finding his center of balance, tummy muscles pulled in tightly, chin turned upward.
At just 5 years old, Alexei Bauereis was a natural. His mom also remembers in great detail the day her son decided to pursue ballet. She took Alexei along to pick up his figure skating sister from the ballet class she took to develop core strength when the boy became transfixed by a poster showing Paul Michael Bloodgood, a longtime leading man at Ballet Austin now turned film director.
“‘That’s what I want to do,'” Bauereis remembered her son saying to her. “He hunted, he fished,” she said during an interview with Patch, recalling her surprise at the boy’s choice of pursuit. “He was a boy’s boy! Who does he think he is?” she recalled jokingly asking her husband. “We need to do something. This is ridiculous.”
It was her husband who urged him to sign up for ballet classes. “It can’t hurt,” he said to her. It was just a six-week class, they reasoned, and the phase would probably wear off by the time classes ended. But the boy stuck with it, on his way to a career in dance: “The first time we ever saw him dance, we were all in tears,” she recalled. “He had a natural rhythm. He held in his rib cage — just elegance. To have that ability at just 5 years old was remarkable.”
But on June 7, 2016, at the intersection of Spicewood Springs and Rustic Rock Drive — the chronology and location also burnished in the mother’s mind — Alexei was struck and killed by a car while walking a friend home. He was just 14 years old, by then something of a veteran dancer at Ballet Austin where his artistic hero had come up too.
It’s the sort of tragedy that only a parent who has lost a child understands, an anguish so unimaginable as to prevent an interviewer from delving into the matter too deeply with needless questions related to that sad time. It’s the resilience of a mom soldiering through grief and the manifestation of a mother’s strength that is the focus of the moment.
Once acceptance was achieved in grief’s final stage, Bauereis marshaled the beautiful memories of a boy whose life made a lasting impact on those around him by writing a children’s book celebrating the power of individuality. She came across one of her son’s last homework assignments, a poem, in which he wrote of ways of conveying wordless expression through dance.
The resulting book , “Things We Wish To Say,” is a journey into the mind of a boy comfortable i his own skin — and fully connected to the world around him — despite being bullied by some of the other kids perplexed by his unconventional penchant for ballet. On Saturday, Bauereis will be at a book signing after the screening of “Danseur,” a documentary focusing on the bullying of male ballet dancers in which Alexei also figures prominently.
“Taking Alexei’s words and putting it into a book was very joyful,”Bauereis said. “He didn’t focus on being bullied, but on the beauty of the dance. That was joyful and uplifting as a mom.”
To counterbalance the inevitable bullying of an artistic child, Bauereis formed a community of like-minded boys who would go on adventures together, like a memorable trip to Six Flags they all took one year. “We created a community for male dancers, and I would like to see that continue,” she said, a hope for a ballet community in which she’s no longer as active since her son’s death.
The longer the conversation extends, the more one is astonished by Bauereis’ strength. But in talking about the process of writing the book as homage to her lost son, she remembers how difficult it was to sift through photographs used as the basis for the its illustrations. And she breaks down momentarily, her exuberance suddenly quieted by lingering pain. “I discovered what post-traumatic stress was,” she offers ever so succinctly and yet concurrently expressing volumes after a pronounced pause in the telephone conversation.
She tells Patch she has five children (Alexei included in the count, naturally, in the present tense) ranging in age from 36 to 20, and six grandchildren, and one is comforted in knowing she is surrounded by much love of family. “All of our kids are so awesome,” she offers, the lilt returning in her voice. “They’re all independent and creative. I’m so blessed.”
Yet Alexei still looms large in their lives, and soon more will familiarize themselves with his brief yet remarkable life. She still marvels at the turnout for his funeral when more than 1,000 crammed Grace Covenant Church at 9431 Jollyville Rd. — people from the neighborhood, Boy Scouts, members of the church choir, gym buddies — as she wondered if there might be enough food for the wake.
The book she wrote, guided by indelible memories of her boy, is not only a manifestation of his legacy but an important primer for other children: “It’s time to put an end to this bullying,” she says, “and this is step one.”
Bauereis will be signing copies of her book at the documentary screening of “Danseur” at AustinVentures Studio Theater at at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Ballet Austin, 501 W. 3rd St. For more information and to buy tickets, click here. To convey thoughts to Alexei’s family and updated on future projects in his honor, click here. Those unable to attend the event can order the book via Bauereis’ website at AnnaBauereis.com.