IN a cavernous workshop in the bowels of Scottish Ballet's Glasgow headquarters, 22-year-old dancer Barnaby Rook Bishop is standing splay-footed before an enormous curtain of baubles in purple, silver and gold. Some are the size of footballs, some the size of the tangerines you might find in the toe of your stocking after Santa has been – an appropriate simile given that this backdrop forms part of the company's upcoming Christmas show, The Nutcracker, a seasonal favourite and about as festive and kid-friendly as the traditional ballet repertoire gets.

Later, Rook Bishop will be joined on the makeshift stage by his French colleague, principal dancer Sophie Martin, for a Sunday Herald fashion shoot which will see the pair dressed in glamorous evening wear. But right now he's on his own and in his decidedly un-dressy rehearsal garb of T-shirt, checked over-shirt and jogging bottoms. Even so, it's him that catches the eye rather than the glittering backdrop: specifically, the garish, ankle-high slipper-boots he's wearing.

Made from a cushioned material of metallic gold, they're topped with red and yellow which, he tells me (because I can't not ask) are some of the colours of the Romanian flag. And no, this isn't part of his costume: they were a present from Danish choreographer and ballet star Johan Kobborg, former director of the Romanian National Ballet Company in Bucharest, which Rook Bishop joined as an 18-year-old and where he cut his teeth until joining Scottish Ballet in 2016. So does he wear his blingtastic baffies around the house? “No,” he laughs. “I keep these for the studio”.

Studio wear is one thing, but for dancers costumes are as much a part of the job as pirouettes and arabesques and looking good in them is as important as any other aspect of a ballet production – possibly more so when it comes to the annual Christmas blockbuster, an important fixture in the company calendar.

That said, moving gracefully in the ornate costumes isn't as easy as it looks. To dance the parts of the Prince and the Rat King in The Nutcracker Rook Bishop will wear a blue dinner jacket with tails, and a red military jacket with gold trim. “There are quite a lot of turns in the solo we do, so all the time in the rehearsal I'm aware I'm going to have this dinner jacket on,” he says.

He'll also swap his metallic gold slippers for a pair of leather boots. These are ballet boots, to be sure – so they're tight and fitted – but they're still boots. “You do have to work in a slightly different way because they're leather and we're used to using canvas shoes,” he adds. “I've just started using them in rehearsal now to get used to it.”

The Inverness-born, Norfolk-raised dancer is still at the rank of artist in Scottish Ballet, and this is only his second major role for the company. The first came in The Fairy's Kiss, part of the recent autumn season and a double-bill devoted to the work of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. The other piece in that programme, a re-working of The Rite Of Spring by Scottish Ballet artistic director Christopher Hampson, featured Martin sparring with her fellow principal Christopher Harrison, also her partner in that memorable 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony performance.

Befitting the choreography, the costumes in Hampson's piece were minimal, which is how Martin prefers it. But for The Nutcracker it's the opposite: for the roles of the Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy Martin will don a tutu she describes as “big and long” as well as a mask. A near 10-year veteran of the company, she's familiar with both roles having previously danced in the version choreographed by former artistic director Ashley Paige as well as the 2014 revival of the version being performed this year, originally created in 1973 by Scottish Ballet founder Peter Darrell. But something tells me you never get used to masks.

“It's the kind of thing you want to practise with before going on stage,” she admits. “Obviously you do see but when you wear a mask suddenly it restricts your vision on the side a little bit and you never know, you might knock it a bit and you won't see so well. It's one of the restrictions of wearing a big costume, and more often in the Christmas productions you will wear bigger, heavier costumes with more sparkle. But they do tend to be more restrictive.”

Restrictive, but important. Martin describes the choreography in Darrell's work as “very technical” but she realises the number of audience members who are there to cast an academic eye over it is minimal. Instead, she says, most people are there because “they want to dream. They want to look at nice costumes, they want to look at someone having fun on stage, they want to laugh, they want to smile. In a way that keeps you going. When you have to do a show at 2pm on a Sunday, say, you're like: 'Well I'm tired, but I'm going to inspire someone to become a ballet dancer'."

The curtain rises on the 2017 Nutcracker on Saturday in Edinburgh and, a gruelling 26 performances later, the production moves to Glasgow for 11 shows before touring to Aberdeen, Inverness and Newcastle. The last performance comes a week or so before Valentine's Day. It's quite a slog for the dancers.

“The main difference with the Christmas show is how many performances we have,” says Rook Bishop. “I definitely approach it in a different way from the shorter autumn season. You have to pace yourself, not give it your all on the first show because then you're completely dead for the next day, when you might have two shows. So that's a big thing to consider. But also because you have more shows you can get into the role more, maybe, and can actually develop the role as you progress through the shows.”

The length of the tour and the number of performances also means hard work and commitment from the boys and girls recruited to perform in the party scenes. Once upon a time – and that fairy tale opening isn't entirely inappropriate – Rook Bishop was one of those children, a fact which makes this Nutcracker a little bit special for him.

“I'm excited,” he admits. “I can't wait because when I was at the Royal Ballet School the students performed with the company so The Nutcracker was the first professional production I did with the Royal Ballet. I was 10. I was one of the party children. So yeah, I have quite a connection with it. I remember the rehearsals with the company and just looking up to everyone. It was a really inspiring time.”

As it would be. Then a pupil at White Lodge, the Royal Ballet School's junior school, Rook Bishop found himself on stage with, among other stellar names, the great Carlos Acosta.

So much for the pair's on-stage costumes and their studio outfits. But as they prepare for a Sunday Herald shoot which will put Rook Bishop in a bow tie and Martin in (among other things) a fake fur stole, what do they really like to wear come party time?

“Outside of work I like to wear relaxed clothes, something comfortable. Jeans usually,” says Rook Bishop. “But sometimes I'll see something I love. I like jackets, I buy them new. But a lot of my things are from charity shops.”

Dressing up for a typical night out, then, would involve fitted jeans, a shirt and “comfortable shoes,” he says. “And depending on the occasion I like to wear a suit. When it's needed.”

Martin, too, favours comfort over everything else, though one benefit of being on tour abroad with Scottish Ballet is the ambassadorial receptions the company members are invited too.

“You can wear your most glamorous gown,” she coos. “If you know it's two or three hours in an embassy and the coach is picking you up, it's the perfect time to do it. I think what suits me is usually [something] closer to the body, so nothing big or opulent. I like black and I like red. I very rarely buy patterns. I like something that's good with my skin colour because then I don't have to put on so much make-up. Red gives me a bit of a glow!”

As for going out in Glasgow, “I tend to be a bit more simple,” she says. “Sometimes I'll put on earrings and then eventually take them off. I like buying heels but I always just end up picking up the smaller ones because I like to be comfortable.”

She stops to consider that for moment, then adds with a laugh: “I'd like to be a bit more glam, actually.”

Well Mademoiselle, now is your chance.

Scottish Ballet's The Nutcracker opens at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh on Saturday (until December 30). It then tours to Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Newcastle