House&Interior, № 04, May 2010 | Natalie Burn: Hollywood lady

NATALIE GUSLISTAYA – dancer and actress – has got Russian origin, but speaks with Californian accent, sometimes stumbling, while remembering forgotten Russian words. The inheritor of the powerful financial and industrial clan, which founder, Nicolay Guslisty, used to be in the top management of RAO Gazprom, lives abroad since 14 years old: she started her studies in England, then she proceeded with her career in Hollywood. Recently Natalie came back to Russia for shooting in some scenes of a new film, as well as for opening a dance school, named after her. She is staying in the ancestral home, hidden in forest reserve near Kaluga. Correspondents of House & Interior magazine have got the opportunity to capture the image of the refined Hollywood star at the hard background of the well-to-do Russian country estate.

MY MOTHER WAS A BALLERINE, performing in Kiev. I always dreamed dancing, as far back as I can remember. At once I was studying in a ballet school in Moscow, and when I was 14 I applied to London Royal Ballet School. The matter is that in Russia only classic ballet techniques are taught – this is well justified, as the world glory of Bolshoy and Mariinsky theaters are based on it. But this was not enough for me: the world ballet has gone on before, there are many advanced experimental techniques, based on mixed various dance styles, as well as on different kinds of arts. I was very interested in the modern ballet, where Englishmen are absolute leaders.

At first they were reluctant to admit me to the London studio, in spite of many years training: my posture was not correct from the point of view of English teachers, many muscles were “up tight”… But, anyway, I was admitted to the school, and had to catch up a lot in the beginning. At the same time, here in London I joined Pineapple Dance – modern dance studio, there I was studying hip hop, brake dance, Latin American and exotic dances, like capoeira. At the same time I did not want to drop the Russian ballet school, so I permanently flied for classes to Moscow and for some times I, actually, lived in the plane.

On my third year I produced my first choreographic event – it was my term work. The show was very extraordinary and complicated. 26 dancers were involved, they were showing scenes from streeters’ life by means ;of plastique, showing their moral and physical sufferings. Teachers were discouraging me, they were persuading me that such a get-up will be to hard for viewers’ perception. But they were mot able to change my mind: at the time I was mad from Cirque du Soleil and I wanted to make an event, which spirit would match their show. Everything turned out right as I imagined: the show has drawn attention and did not cause rejection.

Because of it I met and made friends with guys from The Black Eyed Peas – they came to look at my hobos, and then they invited me as choreograph.

After this show I started actively developing the new dance technique. It is based on the imitation of animals’ behavior, who express their emotions brightly and spontaneously. I used to spend all days long in the zoo: I was observing the behavior of monkeys, tigers, snakes and other animals, when they are angry, afraid or aroused. This resulted in new dance movements and events. I used them in choreographic shows, what I used to get up for Black Eyed Peas, and later for Beyonce, Jay-Z and Kylie Minogue. We were shooting clips and making concert programs in London, and when I was 19 I graduated from school and was invited to work as choreograph and dance teacher in Los-Angeles. For the first time I found myself in Hollywood atmosphere, I visited few parties, made acquaintances with celebrities and wanted to try myself as an actress.

In order to build a career in Hollywood, it was very important for me, as a foreigner, to get rid of Russian accent, as well as of British pronunciation, to which I have got used to. People here chaff over Englishmen, and Russian emigrants are referred to the “second class” at all. Roles of Russian gangsters and prostitutes -here it the maximum we can achieve. Russians have got their own get-together, where it is rather easy to get in, but then it is almost impossible to get out. From the very beginning I tried to become not a part of “Russian Hollywood”, but a part of real one, big Hollywood, which does not have national roots. I even had to reject my family name, because it is almost impossible for an American to remember and pronounce Guslistaya. I took the simple and sound nickname of Burn. Now I see that really talented Russian actors and film-makers are more and more successful in the American show business, but these are exceptions, only confirming rules of surviving in Hollywood, and I was trying to observe them at the very beginning.

Thank Black Eyed Peas and my other friends and clients, with whom I used to work as a choreograph – they gave introduced me to a right get-together, to top producers and top rank stars. In spite of the fact that it is nothing to do in Hollywood without good recommendations – they will not build a career for you. A producer, managing a film budget of several ten millions dollars will not risk such money, giving the role to somebody, for whom “a good lad” asked for. I had to study a lot, as well as to prove my talent and professional skills every day. I entered Strasberg Theater & Film Institute and possessed different actor’s techniques. I understood that in order to get equal conditions with an average American actress, moreover, to win her as competitor, I had to make ten times more efforts.

Then I passed hearing in Al Pachino’s Actor’s Studio. I did not know that he himself will be in the panel. I came up to the stage and heard the voice, familiar from the childhood, from the darkness: “Who are you and why did you come?” It was just amazing, he has always been by favorite actor, and now I’ve got the chance to study with him. Of course, I showed everything I was capable of at the hearing. I was admitted, moreover, I’ve got rather friendly relations with Al Pachino. Al Pachino and Sally Kirkland, who was teaching us acting technique, are

“promoting” Stanislavsky system in Hollywood. They are very interested in Russian culture and know about Russian theater not less than Russian fine art experts. For example, Sally taught me Stanislavsky’s technique, allowing me to really cry out in 10 seconds. She also helped me to get my first roles. Now I am already engaged in ten films, but, I hope, my main roles are still ahead.

I just finished shooting in Croatia: Uwe Boil is shooting there a thriller based on Bloodrayne-3 computer game. There is still snow in mountains. I was all frozen; I had to drag an enormous icy machine gun, but Boil is an amazing film maker, and we used to work in such a warm creative atmosphere, that nobody has paid any attention to frost. In Russia, Dolph Lundgren and I, we are engaged in several scenes of new Marius Waisberg’s films under the tentative title of “Shashlik”. Besides that I was doing choreography for a new Dima Bilan’s clip, as well as was taking part in the demonstration of Ilya Shiyan’s collection. Here I acted not only as regisseur and choreograph, but showed myself on the podium, wrapped in a three meter python.

I adore snakes: I’ve got two pythons at my home in Los-Angeles – the boy Escape and the girl Eternity. I bought them, when I was preparing for the role in “Cat in a Hot Tin Roof” play, by Tennessee Williams. I had to become flexible, sexual, plastic and dangerous, as snake, so I was learning from this couple. Once upon a time they ran away and wandered somewhere for a couple of weeks. There was a big fuss in the house, when I am renting my apartment. Now I am looking for a place in Los-Angeles to build my own house with a big plot, where kids will be able to wriggle along.

I refer my future to Hollywood, first of all, but I have also got big plans for Russia. For a long time I have got an idea to create my dancing school here, tot each my technique of animals’ imitation. This is a long process: now I am looking for Russian dancers, to whom I will be able to hand over this technique, and then to hire them as teachers.

INTERVIEW PAVEL ZHAVORONKOV
PHOTO ALEXANDER STRIZHEVSKY