IT has taken 18 months to bring to fruition but Scotland's premiere dance company is ready to stage its first new Christmas ballet in six years.

After weeks of rehearsals at the purpose-built Tramway complex in the South Side, the largest dance studio in Europe, the company, under the watchful eye of artistic director Christopher Hampson, is getting ready for opening night.

"There will be lots of magic," he promises of the company's first new Christmas ballet in six years and the first he has choreographed for the Scottish Ballet.

"It's a family ballet, a great story with really timeless themes, so making the characters as colourful and as rich as possible has been really important. It's a very short story so it has been interesting to develop it and make it a larger work.

"It's a great story and one everyone knows.

"There's a darkness to it, and children do like to be frightened a little bit.

"We've tried to build it so that the audience goes on a journey with Hansel and Gretel.

"They want to go on an adventure, and the place they end up is actually quite magical and fun, but by the end of the ballet they end up in a very dark place."

Prima ballerina Eve Mutso plays the Witch, a cold and calculating character who is the source of all the darkness in the production.

"She doesn't work alone," smiles Eve.

"She gets other characters to work for her, they seem to be nice, then you realise they all work for the witch in one way or another.

"They distract kids and allow her to lead them to the gingerbread house."

As well as a dress which has eight layers of skirt and more than 30 metres of fabric, Eve has three different wig changes during the performance.

After trying on the full wig and make-up for the first time, she says she almost felt the iciness taking over.

"It was beautiful, so glittery and wonderfully creative. She is glamorous but evil, that's where the coldness comes in, there is nothing human about her."

Growing up in Estonia, Eve was a firm fan of Grimm's fairy tales and loved their dark twists.

Now she has introduced her five-year-old daughter to the story of Hansel and Gretel.

"I have bought her books with the story, pop-up books - the Estonian version and British versions.

She loves the story and says she can't wait to see when my character is pushed in the oven," she laughs.

This show has taken many creative twists and turns before it reaches the stage, crossing the country to tap into the stories and imaginations of the people of Scotland for inspiration.

The year-long Hansel and Gretel, and Me project included a children's art competition, an adult creative writing competition, woodland performances for children to find the 10 local kids who will appear in the production when it is staged in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Newcastle and Belfast.

"The work with the community has been vital to the production," explains Christopher. "We worked with all generations across the nation.

The notice board on Christopher's office wall is covered in children's pictures, many of the ideas in them will turn into reality when the production takes to the stage: a silhouette of a raven, an etching of a forest scene and children in a gingerbread house.

"The children were really imaginative," he enthuses.

"We got them to tell us the story of Hansel and Gretel and there was always a gingerbread house.

"That has been one of the most surprising things about the outreach programme for me as a creator, to see the commonality of some of the themes, with people responding to similar parts of the story. So I knew there were strong elements that needed to be in the production.

"We held dance workshops and storytelling sessions at St Albert's Primary School near the Tramway and sessions at The Village Storytelling Centre in Pollok.

"We engaged a professional storyteller and just seeing them telling the story of Hansel and Gretel to children was amazing.

"I hadn't seen just how children will hang on every word when they are being told a story.

"So the storyteller inspired the very beginning of the ballet, when Eve's character has a group of schoolchildren and she's telling them a story and they'll do anything for her."

It has been a mammoth production to undertake with 52 different costumes, including some rather special slippers for the mother the mysterious lady.

Hopefully Hansel has a sweet tooth, as he will eat abut 50 cupcakes on stage over the course of the tour.

Christopher admits he has wanted to stage Hansel and Gretel long before he arrived at Scottish Ballet.

The work on this production started more than 18 months ago and rehearsals have been in full swing since early October.

All that's left now is for audiences to unwrap the tasty treat on offer...