There’s something merrily appropriate about 2016 being a leap year, given that dance-wise, there’s a lot of creative energy and radical innovation preparing to leap on-stage in the months ahead. Whatever the style, on pointe or off, It seems there’s an increasing shift from pure dance/abstract ballets towards work that has a narrative thrust, a sense of meaningful humanity – often conflicted or oppressed – that modern audiences can relate to on an almost instinctive level.

This is certainly true of the new family-friendly piece from BalletLORENT that arrives at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh (Fri 22 and Sat 23 January) and subsequently at Pitlochry Festival Theatre (Fri 26 and Sat 27 February). It’s a fresh look at Snow White, one of those familiar fairytales that Disney and pantomime have gradually edged away from the Grimm-er truths embedded in the happy-ever-after story. Once again company director and choreographer Liv Lorent has joined forces with writer Carol Ann Duffy in a welcome follow-up to their previous success, a highly acclaimed version of Rapunzel that wove issues of mother love and loss into the braids of fantasy.

Their response to Snow White ventures into bracingly dark territory, transferring all the Queen’s jealous scheming against a younger, fairer, rival onto the shoulders of... Snow White’s own mother. If Lorent makes compelling dance out of the cruelty of Snow White’s flesh-and-blood kin, she also offers audiences a wonderful affirmation, in duets and ensembles, of the kindness of strangers. It’s a large-scale, lavishly staged production that’s suitable for a 7+ audience – and an exciting, dramatic dance-theatre treat for all ages.

When choreographer Jonathan Watkins was in his mid-teens, he read George Orwell’s 1984 – the themes he took on board “about individuality and going against the system and about how we behave in the presence of other people as opposed to when we are in private” have been inspiring his work ever since. Last year the Leeds-based Northern Ballet decided on a tremendous leap of faith in the combined strengths of Orwell’s narrative and Watkind’s talents: it commissioned Watkins, now 31, to make a full-length ballet – possibly the first ever such venture – of Orwell’s iconic 1984. George Balanchine famously declared "there are no mothers-in-law in ballet" - but how about politics? Can life in the (Orwellian) Big Brother society translate from imaginatively crafted written text into a movement vocabulary?

Watkins, however, was determined to stay as true to the book as possible. Even if it would have been easier to focus on the doomed romance between Winston Smith and Julia, he frames their story with all the state-controlled apparatus of covert surveillance and video propaganda that ensures impressive crowd control on-stage. Northern Ballet has, since its earliest days, been a consistent champion of story-telling ballets but 1984 is probably its most ambitious and risk-taking narrative venture to date. The production, which I saw when it premiered in September 2015, comes to the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh Thu March 31 to Sat April 2) – without a word of doublespeak, it’s a remarkably impressive piece from a young choreographer with remarkably mature vision.

How do you make a 19th century Romantic classic come to life for a 21st century audience? Matthew Bourne made the corps de ballet all-male in his Swan Lake – a bold stroke that remains as strikingly fresh and popular now as in 1995. Jan Fabre ruffled feathers galore with his controversial staging for the Royal Ballet of Flanders, seen at the Edinburgh Festival in 2002 – the swan skeleton and live owl were the least of his provocations. David Dawson is still creating his new Swan Lake for Scottish Ballet – it premieres at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow (Tues 19 - Sat 23 April) then tours – but already there are signs that his treatment will strip away much of the established pomp and circumstance of the original four act ballet in favour of something clearly rooted in the emotional needs of the central characters. A love story, if you like, that is charged with complexities – the stuff of myth, but also full of profound humanity. A hint of what lies ahead can be found on Scottish Ballet’s website, where video footage shows Dawson rehearsing Sophie Martin and Christopher Harrison in their first-encounter pas-de-deux. The link is

What else does the year hold? The welcome return to Scotland of Netherlands Dans Theater 2, the BalletBoyz and, briefly, Phoenix Dance Theatre (at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh on March 5). Scottish Dance Theatre are out on tour in February, with a double bill that sees Anton Lachky’s exuberant, witty Dreamers coupled up with Process Day, a new commission by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar whose previous works feature in the repertoires of Batsheva Dance, Nederlands Dans Theater and Carte Blanche. Tour details are at

Meanwhile, Scottish Ballet’s ravishing new Cinderella is now on tour across Scotland – a stunning start to a dance-y 2016 that should have you leaping to box offices for some early booking.