Choreographer Boris Eifman has mined a life rich in tragedy to create his ballet Tchaikovsky, which he brings to Australia next week

Russian choreographer Boris Eifman is obsessed with the music of Tchaikovsky – but if you want fluffy swans, look elsewhere. Instead of devising the nthincarnation of The Nutcrackeror Swan Lake, Eifman has mined the drama of the Tchaikovsky symphonies to create a ballet biography of the composer – a life told in dance, entitled simply Tchaikovsky. According to Eifman, Tchaikovsky was an artist consumed by a conflict between his orthodox faith and his sexuality. The composer’s inner torment will be played out on stages in Sydney and Melbourne next week by the touring Eifman Ballet Theatre, based in St Petersburg, who have also imported Eifman’s highly emotive take on the Tolstoy novel Anna Karenina. Australia, incidentally, is the last continent on earth (barring Antarctica) this hugely successful troupe is yet to visit. Limelight’s editor Francis Merson asked Eifman about his vision of Tchaikovsky as man and musician.

The life of a composer is an unusual subject for a ballet. Why Tchaikovsky ?

I love Tchaikovsky’s music – it’s what I grew up with ­– and to date...