JUST over a week ago, Christopher Hampson, the CEO and Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet, was in Kirkwall, Orkney.

“The weather was incredible,” he said. “It was beautiful: fish and chips on the harbour wall, all of that.”

Hampson was in Kirkwall with Scottish Ballet’s nationwide tour of Wee Hansel & Gretel, the 50-minute version of the ballet which he has choreographed, and which is aimed at introducing children aged between three and eight to the magic of ballet.

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“The show was great. It was nice to see so many young people watching ballet,” he added.

Scottish Ballet, which is based in Glasgow, is 50 years old this year, and has had a distinguished history.

It was established in 1969 by the leading choreographer, Peter Darrell.

Hampson joined as Artistic Director in 2012. Three years later he added the post of CEO, and he has taken the organisation to new heights.

In recent years Scottish Ballet’s exceptional dancers have performed at such globally famous venues as Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden, and the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

World-leading choreographers such as Sir Matthew Bourne have devised works for the company, too.

Hampson also created the world’s first Digital Season for the organisation, ‘a new programme of dance to be experienced through digital platforms’.

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Tomorrow (Sat) sees the world premiere, at the Edinburgh International Festival, of Scottish Ballet’s newest work - The Crucible. Based on the play by Arthur Miller, an account of witch trials staged in Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 1690s, this ballet takes the emotional power of this ever-relevant story into a new medium.

The Crucible will play Scottish dates including Glasgow’s Theatre Royal (September 25-28) before going to the Kennedy Center next May.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, the company concludes its 50th year with the world premiere of The Snow Queen, choreographed by Christopher, which makes its debut at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre on December 7.

“Our mission, really, is to inspire on stage and beyond,” he said. “It’s the latter part of that statement that is really vital, to make us do things differently. It’s what we do beyond the stage that counts.

“We’ve established ourselves in our first 50 years as a reputable company of excellence in terms of dance and what we put on stage.

“But we’re keenly aware that that goes for nothing if it is not impacting on communities and, even more broadly, across society - not just in Scotland but also in the rest of the UK and, now, internationally.

“That’s really where the point of difference comes in for us,” he added. “It’s the ‘and beyond’ part. What do we do that goes beyond the stage, that goes beyond what you would expect a cultural organisation to achieve in that specialised field?”

For example, as part of the company’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Scottish Ballet are making five wishes come true for the people of Scotland in 2019. After a public vote, the final five were chosen from hundreds submitted and three have already taken place, including a recent collaboration with Alzheimer Scotland and Dumbarton’s Every Voice Community Choir to create a unique performance for their annual summer concert.

Another good example is the launch, earlier this year, of the Safe to be Me project, aimed at Primary Six pupils across Scotland, which uses dance to address such urgent topics such as racism, homophobia, bigotry, ableism and transphobia.

It explores themes that range from identity, tolerance, acceptance, respect to ethnic and family diversity and LGBTQ communities.

“It makes sure,” says Christopher, “that children and young people feel it is safe to be whoever they are, wherever they are. But of course that throws up some challenges, both culturally and within some quite marginalised sections of society, too.

“We don’t shirk our responsibilities in terms of shining a light on social injustices and really interrogating how Scottish Ballet, through movement, dance and inspiring narratives, can help with that objective.”

Christopher is delighted with the public response to this year’s Digital Season, an innovative programme of work created for smartphones, cinema ‘and everything in between’.

“It’s a very strong part of my personal vision for Scottish Ballet, to make sure we are constantly able and fluent in our ability to navigate a digital future, so much so that it was the subject of the final piece of work in my recent MBA.”

In the meantime he is looking forward to the premiere of The Crucible. “The subject matter of it is absolutely timeless,” he says, “especially the fact that it’s a political allegory. That resonates just as strongly today as it ever did.

“It just speaks to the Scottish Ballet brand, that we’re a company that searches out those kind of stories that are relevant to today and that people will be able to recognise, and will know how it impacts on them and on their lives.”

** scottishballet.co.uk