Words are whirling and dancing in studio after studio at Tramway every day now, as Scottish Ballet prepares for the autumn tour that opens in Glasgow at the end of September.

Open one door, and the rich, resonant voice of Richard Burton will lap round your ears with the verse of Dylan Thomas. Three lads will respond with a jaunty spring in their step as they mark out the moves that choreographer Christopher Bruce has set to I See The Boys Of Summer, one of Thomas's very early works that is evocatively tinged with a dying fall. Bruce's Ten Poems - all by Dylan Thomas in a recording by Richard Burton - will have its UK premiere when it opens Scottish Ballet's new double bill.

Along the corridor, and the words that are inspiring Helen Pickett come from Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. Written in 1953, it's a drama that spins compelling energy from the web of lies and whispers, false accusations and righteous hysteria that we know, historically, as the Salem witch trials. Pickett has seized on that energy and is translating it into a ballet that connects the past with the present, and catches at the darker side of human nature as well as its valour in the face of persecution and malice.

Open the door on what she's doing with the pivotal dance scene in the forest, and you'll be sucked into a voodoo-ritual rave where the demure girlies of Salem - led by the charismatic Abigail - are tossing clothes and inhibitions to the wind. "I know," grins Pickett. "In the play, they dance naked... but I think we have ways of getting that across without the nudity."

A low, mischievous chuckle escapes her. Like an irresistible Pied Piper, she's leading the ladies of Scottish Ballet far from tutu-and-tiara-land and into a realm of hormone-driven rebellion where every step obeys the mesmerising beat of Jon Hopkins's thrumming soundscore, and girls just want to have the kind of fun their parents - whatever the century - have strictly forbidden.

All in all, the emerging choreography has a visceral edge that is creepy and yet slutty, naive and yet seductive, especially in the form of Abigail, a veritable heat-seeking missile with the already-married John Proctor in her sights. The drama will unfold to what Pickett describes as "music that needs to make audiences feel disjointed, because this is a play that's full of disruption, unease, fear. And destruction." To this end, she's brought together a collage of cinema soundtracks by Bernard Herrmann - not the obvious, predictable choices - with music by Paul Hindemith, Krzysztof Penderecki and Hopkins.

Downstairs, in his office, Scottish Ballet's artistic director, Christopher Hampson, has the overview that anchors these two productions in the company's burgeoning repertoire and profile. Part of his pleasure in this forthcoming double bill lies in bringing back two choreographers who have previously worked well with Scottish Ballet - both Bruce and Pickett were part of last year's ground-breaking Dance Odysseys at the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF). But actually, what he's really out to achieve is a shift in audience expectations - and in the acquired mindset of the whole dance community - about the what and how of programming.

"I've already said that I think the triple bill is dead," he says, smiling like a boyish prankster. "And I know that got some knickers in a twist, because it's a format we've all grown up with. But if you have two strong works - like I think we have here, with The Crucible and Ten Poems - then what are you going to put with them that doesn't, somehow, diminish them?

"These pieces are already linked. They both draw inspiration from texts. One of them, Chris's Ten Poems, is actually using text as the score. Helen's work is, absolutely, telling the story that Arthur Miller put on-stage. I believe, that for an audience, this offers a really meaty, entertaining and thought-provoking experience. It's a really bold double bill. I think it offers audiences quality - and you don't always get that when it's the conventional quantity of a triple bill."

Upstairs, again. And Burton's cadences are filling the air with The Hunchback In The Park. Dancers are listening, absorbing texture as well as text. In a way, this is serendipity in action. None of this would have happened if Bruce hadn't wandered into a local music shop, more on the off-chance of something catching his eye than with any specific purchase in mind. There he spotted a CD cover with Richard Burton's face on it. "Such a beautiful face," he says, smiling at the recollection. Without a second thought, he bought the CD: it was of Burton reading the poetry of Dylan Thomas.

"I realised at the time there was a certain degree of nostalgia involved in my purchase," he continues. "But, as I began to listen to the rich cadences of Burton's voice, I instantly felt the suggestion of a dance. There was just such musicality in that voice."

After weeks of listening over and over to Burton's recording, Bruce fixed on the ten poems that conjured dance in his mind. He explains that he'd thought, initially that the "work would lean towards the abstract rather than the dramatic. However, when I started work in the studio, the content of Thomas's lines made itself felt and the dance began to tell stories. It's not exactly a narrative ballet, but I think it says something about the poet, and his history. And place. Landscape and sea. The images really reach out to you, and when you hear Burton reading them..." The word 'inspirational' hangs in the air, unspoken, like a self-evident truth.

For Pickett, the truths woven through Miller's drama are ones that speak to our own times, as pungently as to the McCarthy era in 1950s America. With a background that embraces theatre-making and performance as well as dance - Pickett's CV bristles with kudos, ranging from being a dancer/choreographer under William Forsythe to regular stints with the radical Wooster Group - her instincts, as well as her researches, make for a forensic understanding of what motivates these characters. She's been to what was once Salem. Read, in the graveyard, the truth of neighbours at loggerheads.

"The headstones are all Putnams," she says. "So they got what they wanted - none of the Nurses are here. But look at what we remember the Putnams for - and it's not for their good deeds. The graveyard is proof of their avarice and ruthlessness."

Abigail, she reckons, is in the grip of post-traumatic stress. "She's seen her parents killed by the native American Indians, she's in a house where she's not really wanted or loved, and her hormones are just coming up to boiling point. She's a teenager, becoming a woman - and a very seductive one, at that."

Listening to this comment is Sophie Martin, the ballerina who is Pickett's turbulent, troubled adolescent siren. Martin has just spent the morning in a frenzy of totally stoked-up libido, sparked off by Abigail's walking on the wild side subsequently condemned as witchcraft. This one dance will lead, in time, to the deaths of innocent people.

"When you think about that," says Martin, "then, of course, Abigail is totally horrible. But if she really loves John, then maybe she's got a good enough reason for what she does. She will try anything. It's not something she's doing because she's bored! And, for me, it's an interesting challenge. She is a young girl, but she has a complicated character."

The word 'complicated' could just as readily apply to the choreography. Pickett won't countenance any kind of formulaic creep or casual uniformity, but if Martin - who had been part of the quartet in Pickett's The Room at EIF last year - knew what was in store, she nonetheless agrees you can't go on to automatic pilot, or just meet with the beat.

"Even when there are other people on-stage, I think you have to feel the choreography as an individual," she says. "You are telling this story. You have to show audiences what's inside you. What is happening to you when you let go, in the forest, with the other girls. Or how Abigail, with John, is the strong one in the duet, and why. It's tricky - it's much easier to just dance alone! But Helen listens to us. We know what is involved in keeping the story going - and that it is a story that's important to tell today."

The Crucible/Ten Poems is at Theatre Royal, Glasgow from September 25-27; Eden Court, Inverness, September 30-October 1; Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, October 3-4; and His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen, October 7-8, www.scottishballet.co.uk