Russia’s internationally acclaimed Eifman Ballet will make its Australian debut next month with two of its most revered productions – Anna Karenina and Tchaikovsky – playing in Sydney and Melbourne.

As the company’s eponymous director Boris Eifman, Russia’s ‘master of psychological ballet’, told the Star Observer, he and his dancers are seeking to make up for lost time with the double bill

“Our company, with its 35-year history, really has never had a tour to Australia. Frankly speaking it surprises me, as we carry out active touring representing modern Russian ballet art all over the world,” he said via email, his occasionally broken English delivered via a translator.

“I hope that these performances will help Australian audiences get acquainted with the modern Russian ballet.”

The two ballets Australian audiences will see are very much companion pieces, each dealing with themes common to Eifman’s choreographic career: namely, internal torment and the self-destructive nature of the human mind.

“These ballets were created in different times, but the personalities of the main characters of Tchaikovsky and Anna Karenina have a lot in common,” he said.

“The first performance tells us about the tragic split in the soul of the composer, about his difficult struggle with the dark part of his soul that tormented him.

“The heroine of Anna Karenina also experiences the tormenting duality of her nature: she turns out to be powerless in the struggle with the destructive, dark part of a woman’s nature.”

With the music of Tchaikovsky a common thread throughout both works, Eifman admitted to an intense fascination with the 19th Century composer, whose musical genius contrasted sharply with his private struggles with his own homosexuality.

“The whole life of Tchaikovsky is the tragic story of total self-denial, full with the hardest sacrificial creative work,” he said.

“Being a person that passes 12 hours in choreographic class and always working regardless my physical state, I totally understand that the fate of the artist obsessed with his mission is very difficult. That is why Tchaikovsky is infinitely close to me. I will always be interested in the theme of the terrible price the creators have to pay for their genius contribution to the world of art.”

It’s all par for the course for a choreographer whose work has dealt with taboo subjects like sex, religion and mental illness for decades.

Unsurprisingly, his work often earned him the ire of Russia’s Soviet-era leaders, eager to suppress any artistic work deemed dangerous or subversive.

“I never turn to such subjects for pure provocation, publicity or scandal, but yes: during the Soviet period my art was persecuted, declared to be immoral and devoid of ideology. But even at those times audiences supported our theatre as it felt sincerity, novelty and emotional richness in our creative work,” he said.

INFO: Eifman Ballet, Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, August 15-26. Melbourne’s Regent Theatre, August 29-September 9. www.eifmanballetaustralia.com.au

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