Ballet Stars

Paul Michael Bloodgood Says Goodbye to Ballet Austin and Hello to His Next Career: Directing Films

Bloodgood and Ashley Lynn Sherman in "Giselle." Photo by Tony Spielberg, courtesy Ballet Austin.

Paul Michael Bloodgood, a longtime leading man at Ballet Austin, ends his 19-year career with the company this weekend in Paul Vasterling's Peter Pan. But in between layoffs and after rehearsals, he's been steadily working towards his next phase: creating a full-length feature documentary called Trenches of Rock. The movie, which focuses on his father's Christian heavy metal band and the challenges they faced in the music industry, has been enjoying screenings at film festivals around the world—and winning awards along the way. Pointe spoke with Bloodgood about how he's feeling as he ends his dance career and transitions into filmmaking.

What's on your mind as you wrap up your final performances at Ballet Austin?

I just want to be in the moment as much as I can and savor the time onstage with my coworkers. Upon reflection of the past 20 years, the moments of honest emotion and connection with others are what I will cherish the most. There are so many aspects of humanity to explore, and I am so grateful to have had so much time to cogitate what dance has to offer to the human condition.



Do you recall a threshold role, where you felt like you really arrived in your dance career?

Performing a principal role in Balanchine's Episodes when Ballet Austin partnered with the Suzanne Farrell Ballet was in many ways the penultimate achievement, after having studied in the "Balanchine method" for so many years. Albrecht in Giselle was also a highlight, in terms of how I felt physically throughout the experience. But Stephen Mills' Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project has been the pinnacle of my career. The universal themes concerning bigotry, hatred, and no longer being a bystander have as much meaning now as they did when the work was created in 2005.

What role really fit your skill set?

Stephen Mill's Hamlet. It's a great mix of contemporary movement, floor work, partnering, martial arts, fencing and acting. I had the privilege of understudying Desmond Richardson in the title role my first time around and I rehearsed the ballet in full swing for weeks until he arrived. It was a great way for me to get my feet wet before jumping into the deep end years later.

In Stephen Mill's "Hamlet." Photo by Anne-Marie Bloodgood, courtesy Ballet Austin.

What will you miss most about dancing?

Performing. The heightened sense of it all, the fact that you're just laying everything on the table—there's nothing like it and nothing can take its place. I will miss it terribly, which is why I'll probably find myself onstage again in some capacity down the road.

You've acted in several movies, including Transformers. Can you talk about your transition into filmmaking?

I caught the acting bug while dancing with Ballet Pacifica (now defunct) in California. My first time on television was actually a "Bill Nye, the Science Guy" episode titled "Bones and Muscles" while I was a student at Pacific Northwest Ballet School, so the film industry and I have been courting each other for some time. I love acting, but my attention of late has been focused on the creativity behind the camera versus in front.


Bloodgood in "Light / The Holocaust & Humanity Project." Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Ballet Austin.

You recently made a documentary about your dad's Christian heavy metal band called Trenches of Rock. How did it come about?

I'd read that for your first big film project, you should stick with a subject that you know. I didn't feel I could offer something unique enough on the subject of dance, so I shifted my focus to music. I came close to following a local Austin band's struggle to "make it" in the industry, and then it hit me: BLOODGOOD, my father's band, had an incredible story and dealt with a bizarre combination of subject matter (a spiritual context and heavy metal) that hadn't really been told as a feature-length documentary. In their early years, BLOODGOOD had both Christian and Satanist protesters at the same shows. They had multiple death threats made on their lives. People like to laugh it off and dismiss their relevance, but bands like BLOODGOOD are some of the bravest musicians you'll ever encounter.

I didn't set out to make a "Christian film." I made a music documentary that just happens to be about a band with faith-based lyrics. My goal was to make the film as entertaining as possible, whether you're a religious person or an atheist. My wonderful executive producer James Moll mentored me for years throughout the process, and words can't express my gratitude toward him.


With the band BLOODGOOD and his wife Anne-Marie at the Hollywood INdependent Film Festival. Photo courtesy Paul Michael Bloodgood.

What have the reactions been like?

The reception has been overwhelmingly positive—but it wasn't easy! I spent 5 years creating this film, and when we began submitting to festivals, we were turned down everywhere for over a year. It made me question whether I had the goods to continue pursuing film as a secondary career. We finally received our big break with our official selection at the Atlanta Film Festival in 2017. I then emailed hundreds of festivals all over the world—and here we are! Trenches of Rock has been an official selection of 17 festivals and received 11 accolades, including multiple Best Feature Documentary, Best Director and Best Editing awards. I couldn't be more honored and thankful.

What's next for you?

I hope for film to be a part of my future career path. I recently received a distribution offer for Trenches of Rock from a very reputable company, so who knows where that might lead. I'm grateful that I've already found another passion (in film) to replace the void that dance will leave when I retire.

Show Comments ()
Ballet Stars
Canadian junior finalist Mya Kresnyak in a variation from "Paquita." Photo by Richard Finkelstein, Courtesy USA IBC.

On June 10, 119 dancers from 19 countries gathered in Jackson, MS to compete in the USA International Ballet Competition. Today, the USA IBC announced the list of 32 finalists, who will compete for medals and cash awards in Round III, held June 19-21. All of the finalists will receive a travel stipend, and medalists and award winners will be announced at the competition's gala on June 22. See the full list below, and stay tuned all week on our Facebook and Instagram pages as we bring you the latest from Jackson, live.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Cleaning is a daily procedure. Proper maintenance will help extend the life of your floor and protect its special slip-resistant surface.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Ulrik Birkkjaer and Susanne Grinder in Bournonville's Napoli." Photo by Costin Radu, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow Dance.

On June 20, Royal Danish Ballet will open the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival with a weeklong run in the historic Ted Shawn Theatre. The celebrated relationship between the Copenhagen-based company and the Pillow dates back to 1954, when leading RDB soloist Inge Sand stepped in to replace a dancer from another company at the last minute, resulting in her U.S. debut. Her popularity led to the company's inaugural U.S. performance at the festival the next summer. According to the Pillow's director of preservation, Norton Owen, this was also the first time that works by August Bournonville, the famed 19th-century Danish choreographer, were seen in this country. Following its success at Jacob's Pillow, RDB made its New York City debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1956, and in 1957 the King of Denmark knighted Jacob's Pillow founder Ted Shawn for his role in bringing Danish ballet to America. Over the next 20 years, soloists from RDB returned to the Berkshires frequently to great acclaim; their most recent visit was in 2007.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters has a good thing going on. Not only is he one of the company's rising young dancers, but he's also a ballet celebrity on social media, where he charts his life on Instagram and on his hugely popular YouTube series, "The Pre Show" (which he describes as "tons of ballet, banter, boys and lots of backstage shenanigans").

The Dover, New Hampshire, native, who seems just as comfortable in a pair of pink heels as he does onstage, trained at Walnut Hill School for the Arts and Portsmouth School of Ballet. While a member of Houston Ballet II, he landed an apprenticeship with the company after winning the Contemporary Dance Prize at the 2011 Prix de Lausanne. He joined the main company that same year and was promoted to soloist in December 2017. Known for his big personality, elegantly long lines and sensual flow in contemporary work, Watters, 26, is ready to take on the next phase of his career. He recently spoke with Pointe about his new rank and his mission to help others feel proud of who they are.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Sara Webb and Connor Walsh with Artists of Houston Ballet in "Swan Lake" choreographed by Stanton Welch. Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.


The Australian Ballet's Triple Bill, Verve, Includes New Work by Company Dancer Alice Topp

Verve, a triple-bill program from The Australian Ballet running June 21-30 in Melbourne, will host revivals of works from resident choreographers Stephen Baynes and Tim Harbour, as well as a world premiere from company coryphée Alice Topp. Topp's Aurum is inspired by kintsugi, a Japanese art in which broken ceramics are mended using lacquer colored with silver or gold, so that the cracks are emphasized, instead of hidden. In Aurum, Topp applies that philosophy to the human ability to find beauty in vulnerability and imperfections. Completing the bill are Baynes's Constant Variants, which pairs neo-classical ballet with a Tchaikovsky score, and Harbour's Filigree and Shadow, a contemporary ballet featuring striking set and lighting design.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
ABT principals Christine Shevchenko and James Whiteside rehearse "Swan Lake" in Singapore.

In the middle of American Ballet Theatre's spring season, principal dancer Christine Shevchenko takes a break from her comedic role of Pierrette in Harlequinade to (briefly) transform into a swan. During the half hour rehearsal, Shevchenko seamlessly transitions from Odette to Odile, running through her various solos without pause—save for the short conferences with ballet mistress Irina Kolpakova, which switch between Russian and English almost as quickly as Shevchenko whips out her fouetté turns (but more on those later).

"The rehearsal process is a lot different right now because every week it's a new ballet," Shevchenko says during a rehearsal break last week. "I'm really trying to squeeze in as many Swan Lake rehearsals as I can, and at the same time, I'm trying to prepare for Don Quixote, which is the week after," she explains of juggling the season's eight programs. "This is my first year as a principal during the Met season, so I'm learning how to figure it out as we keep going. In a way, I'm used to doing parts last minute because that's how I got most of my roles," she says. Ahead, Shevchenko shares exactly how she's gearing up for her Met debut on June 20.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Carla Fracci in "Giselle," via YouTube.

In the late 1950s and 60s, Italian ballerina Carla Fracci won the world over with her definitive interpretations of romantic ballets like La Sylphide, La Sonnambula, and, of course, Giselle. At just 22 years old, she left her home stage at La Scala in Milan to begin guesting internationally, eventually forming a famous partnership with the dashing danseur Erik Bruhn at American Ballet Theatre. The two appear together in this film of ABT's Giselle, in which Fracci's Act I variation is as near to perfection as any Giselle before or after.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!