A DANCE “cliff-hanger” is to tour Scotland following a five-star first run at Edinburgh International Festival.

Scottish Ballet has earned high praise for its intense adaptation of The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s 1953 play which famously used the Salem witch trials as an allegory for McCarthyite paranoia.

The riveting ballet tours to Glasgow at the end of next month before visiting Aberdeen and Inverness and returning to Edinburgh in October.

Next May will see its US premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

The triumph rewards the ambitious decision of Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet’s chief executive and artistic director, to commit to staging five new full-length ballets over five years – not simply in tribute to the company’s 50th anniversary, but to “provide Scotland with fantastic new work”.

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For The Crucible, the first of these new works, Hampson commissioned top US choreographer Helen Pickett to adapt the iconic play into a ballet with composer Peter Salem, artistic collaborator James Bonas and designers Emma Kingsbury and David Finn.

Allied with Salem’s jolting, atmospheric score, Pickett’s choreography renders the emotional power of Miller’s script as physical movement in a piece which heaves with the weight of a community turning on itself.

Pickett’s first full-length ballet was in 2015 with an award-winning adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s Camino Real, which also features a score by Salem.

If adapting Miller’s play, with its bygone language and frequent narrative passages was a challenge, Hampson would have struggled to find a better candidate to meet it than Pickett.

“My husband calls The Crucible a hybrid of 14 years of my life,” the choreographer says. “So much work that I’ve done before has been investigation into the kind of work that The Crucible became.

“But building this world was really an organisation-wide effort; the dancers, the set, costume, design, the extraordinary score by Peter. He builds worlds through his music, that’s what I like to do, build worlds through various elements.”

Pickett recognised parallels between the concision of Miller’s writing and her ideals as a performer and choreographer.

“Every word needs to be there, nothing is decorative and that’s the way I believe choreography needs to be created,” she says. “You don’t need to add anything to it. The dancer must figure out how the steps create narrative in their body, how the meaning of each word correlates with movement.”

Putting Pickett together with theatre director Bonas has resulted in a piece driven by characters who are rich and realised.

Each has distinctly different steps and modes of embodiment. Judge Danforth pokes and prods like a malign raven, while Abigail – the principal instigator of the accusations which would lead directly to the deaths of 19 – is manic, sensual, troubling. In Miller’s play, she is a 17-year-old ringleader motivated by desire for married farmer John Proctor, though there’s no evidence of any sexual relationship with an older man in the life of the real Abigail, who was just 11.

As part of her years of research, Pickett visited the house of Rebecca Nurse, a pious older woman and respected member of the community who was nevertheless hung as a witch.

“I sat in on a historical talk in which they surmised that Abigail was probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder,” Pickett says. “She had seen her parents be murdered in front of her eyes by native Americans. Miller made the girls older to make it more palatable but you’re dealing with a traumatised young girl who wanted to belong.”

Pickett continues: “It was important to show she was a little girl first, she wasn’t an evil person from the beginning of her life. Like her friends, she’s a little girl loving the intrigue and mystery of the forest. And she finally finds a woman who is caring to her, Tituba.

“The subsequent tumble into the abyss, the fall after the kindness, is why her character, and Miller’s play, is so magnificent.”

September 26 to 28, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 7.30pm, from £12.50; October 3 to 5, His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, 7.30pm, £10 to £43.50; Oct 9 and 10, Eden Court, Inverness, 7.30pm, £15.50 to £31; Oct 17 and 18, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 7.30pm, £15 to £36. www.scottishballet.co.uk #SBCrucible