Paul Michael Bloodgood: Hooked on the Future

by Matthew Gattozzi

Paul Michael Bloodgood fixes his hook on his left hand after dancing with the Crocodile. His laugh is contagious and makes anyone want to hop into a scene with Captain Hook.

Bloodgood will be playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan choreographed by Paul Vasterling which is the final production of the season. Bloodgood, who has danced with Ballet Austin for 16 years, will be retiring from dancing after this show. Between rehearsals for Captain Hook, I was able to sit down and discuss his dance career and where Bloodgood will be going next in his life.

Gattozzi: Can you give a brief history of how you started to dance and how you got to this moment of retiring from professional ballet many years later?

Bloodgood: I started when I was 8 from a tiny school in North Bend, Wash. I was traveling with my father’s band as a kid, so my dance experience was very sporadic until I was about 12 years old when I joined the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. I was homeschooled since I was on tour as a kid, and I continued that after my father stopped touring. When I was older, I had the flexibility to take more classes during the day and arrange my school around my training. I got my first job in Orange County, Calif., with a company called Ballet Pacifica directed by Molly Lynch, which unfortunately no longer exists. I did enjoy my time there, and that is where I met my wife of 13 years, Anne. I danced there for three seasons before joining Ballet Austin where I have been dancing for 16 seasons.

Paul Bloodgood dancing in Romeo & Juliet with Ashley Lynn Sherman. Photo by Tony Spielberg

Gattozzi: What is it like to move on from something that has been an integral part of your life for decades? Have you had time to think about it?

Bloodgood: You know, it has really changed. So much of your identity is based on what you do for a living. So, the idea of being a dancer after doing my plies and tendus for over 30 years in a row is crazy to me. It has been a rollercoaster of emotions for me. Some days, I am so excited and looking forward to the future, and then I will wake up the next day feeling anxious because I want to fill the passion I have for dance with something else that I pursue. Right now, I am on the more positive side of things but check back in a week; things may be different.

Gattozzi: For people who do not know, you have created a documentary, Trenches of Rock, that has been in film festivals all over the world. Is this project the start of a new chapter in your life? Is filmmaking what you want to pursue?

Bloodgood: You nailed it right on the head. I am very interested in the film industry. If you were to walk into my office at home, you would see all of my film mementos and posters that are iconic imagery for me since I was a kid. I love to dance, but I am a fan of film. I have had that innate passion for film since I was young. Trenches of Rock was the documentary that I created, and it was a considerable undertaking that took me five years to make. I am not sure if I would pursue a project like my documentary in the same way because I ended up doing most of the work on my own. I think it would be better to do one job like just directing or script writing. Currently, I am still touring around the film festival circuit, and I am in talks to get my movie in distribution.

Gattozzi: What part of film would interest you to keep pursuing?

Bloodgood: Trenches of Rock is nearing the end game which is to get distribution. Once the movie is off of my hands, I would love to pursue directing, editing, or writing — all sound good to me. I enjoy doing all three of those things. As a dancer, you are a tool for someone to create art on you. I love that, and if I didn’t, I would not have done it all of these years. At this point in my life, I want to be the creator. I love collaborating with people. Dancing at times can be very lonely because you are focused on how you look on stage, especially when it comes to principal roles where there are many times that I am dancing by myself. My best memories of dance have been when I have connected with someone else on stage. I would love to work with others in the film industry.

Paul Bloodgood dancing in Swan Lake with Ashley Lynn Sherman

Gattozzi: Most of you dancing career was not on stage but in the studio getting ready for productions. What will you remember about life at the studio?

Bloodgood: Recently we were working on Exit Wounds, and there is a section where the whole company was dancing together. In no other work environment can you connect with your coworkers on such a deep level. We meet each other on a physical, mental, and even spiritual level which is beautiful and unique. We are breathing together to make this art together. I already miss it, and I am not even done yet. Art can’t change the world, but it can start conversations to initiate change. I have loved having meaning with what I was doing for work.

Gattozzi: What has been the hardest part of dancing professionally?

Bloodgood: With dance, you work your whole body out and have the night to recover before working your whole body out again the next day. You repeat that day in and day out. Even someone who works out intensely, they have their leg day or chest day, and they don’t work out that specific section of their bodies for days; dancers do not have that privilege to rest. If we did, then it would take months to make one production. The day to day of using your whole body is easily the hardest part of being a professional dancer.

Gattozzi: What would be some advice that you give to the up and coming generation?

Bloodgood: If you really want to do something, there is probably somewhere in the world that will take you. Pursue the dream because there is somewhere for you. You also need to know that you have the talent. You need to be able to know what you want to pursue and be very honest with yourself to know if you are capable. The hard part about this is that it is all subjective. So, if you want to pursue something, go and find it. Do not limit yourself.

Peter Pan

May 11–13 | the Long Center

Choreography by Paul Vasterling

Music by Claude Debussy, Georges Bizet, Gabriel Fauré, Maurice Ravel

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This article is written by Matthew Gattozzi (@therealgattozz) who dances as an apprentice for Ballet Austin.

Paul Bloodgood and Oren Porterfield dancing in Agon. Choreography by George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Tony Spielberg