The production itself is a revival, but there are several new faces in the ranks. Among them are emerging talents for whom the chance to dance leading roles – originally created on now-absent predecessors – is an opportunity to put their own mark on Scottish Ballet’s profile and reputation. Happily every cast so far – and I’ve now seen all four of the current Maries – is right on the money, both in technique and acting.

Hark back to December 2003 and the premiere of what was Ashley Page’s first-ever full-length ballet: an updated, magical but darkly surreal, Nutcracker that in its choreography and designs (by long-standing collaborator Antony McDonald) was a quantum leap away from the sugar-coated 19th century period context usually associated with the Hoffmann story and the Tchaikovsky score. Jaws dropped, for sure, but shock gave way to awe and applause. Now, thanks to subsequent Page-McDonald triumphs (and inspired subversions), audiences have come to expect classics with a cunning twist. They’ve also come to expect a world-class standard of dancing.

In 2003, the company was, you might say, still finding its feet, so Page brought in some outside help for the premiere of Nutcracker: Mara Galeazzi, a young principal ballerina with the Royal Ballet, took the lead, with Scottish Ballet’s Jose Perez as her Nutcracker Prince.

Page’s inclination, however, was to ‘fast-forward’ promising in-house talent, and so Claire Robertson and Tomomi Sato both danced Marie in the Nutcracker’s first outing. They are on-stage again this time round – Robertson, partnered by Erik Cavallari, was the opening night Marie at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal in December 2009.

In some Nutcrackers, Marie (as the original story names her) is a somewhat two-dimensional creature – either a little girl, or a teenage miss, eager for her first major pas-de-deux. In Page’s Nutcracker, she is a more complex being: a child-woman who, in the course of a dream-time adventure, leaves her nursery toys behind and finds true love. Robertson, as I noted last month, ably finds the vulnerability and determination that allows Marie to feel for the ugly, enchanted Nutcracker – and to brave the nightmare horrors instigated by evil Dame Mouserink and so break the spell. Cavallari’s Prince is certainly worth fighting for. There’s a poetic elegance to his whole demeanour that, allied to a seemingly effortless technical finesse, epitomises the classic notion of ‘chevalier noble.’ In other castings, these qualities transfer nicely to the role of Drosselmeyer, the enigmatic enabler of Marie’s midnight rite of passage - Cavallari gives him a swish of soignee mystery.

If Tama Barry is a purposefully brisk Drosselmeyer in one cast, he’s a truly stalwart Nutcracker Prince in another, with the deliciously mercurial Tomomi Sato as his Marie. The tiny Tomo might seem in danger of being overwhelmed by the taller, sturdier Tama - in fact, the disparity in size creates a lovely dynamic with Barry a consistently considerate, even tender partner to the thistle-down sprite that is Sato. And though she looks and acts persuasively child-like, and mischievous with it, by the time she and Barry connect in Ivanov’s Act II pas-de-deux (which Page retained), Sato is the perfect Princess in tutu and tiara, with glittering technique to match.

Sophie Martin and Martina Forioso are the new Maries, though both have taken the lead in other recent Scottish Ballet productions. Martin is increasingly confident in her acting skills - there’s never any doubt about the calibre of her dancing - nonetheless she favours a slightly reserved, rather than a boisterous Marie. When her sweetly grave child encounters Adam Blyde’s Prince, something achingly magical happens: it’s a thrilling partnership, not least because Blyde’s innate musicality encourages a sense of their pas-de-deux being a conversation, not just a show-case for balletic prowess. Forioso, who is shortlisted for the Critics Circle National Dance Awards 2009 - in the Outstanding Female Performance (Classical) category - brings fine imagination and intelligence to her feisty, inquisitive Marie. Bullied, pinched and almost iced by the Bad Snowflakes - Freya Jeffs and Constance Deverney debut in the roles with spirited spiky malevolence - Forioso lets you read every nuance of her inner state. Christopher Harrison’s Prince is still concentrating on the steps, and on presenting Forioso in their duets, but this is a pair to watch for the future. Always watchable, whether he’s the Father, Grandfather or Drosselmeyer, is Paul Liburd - wonderfully inscrutable as the orchestrator of events (without Drosselmeyer’s shock-headed wig to mask his authority), Liburd unleashes a gorgeous sense of humour in the other roles, his wit twinkling as nimbly as his feet. One could, in fact, namecheck so many others - Eve Mutso and Diana Loosmore, both recent mothers, return brilliantly to form and roles they created in 2003 while Luke Ahmet and William Smith continue to show new elements of mettle in an expanding roster of challenges. Altogether the mix of old and new augurs well for 2010.

Nutcracker is at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh from tonight to Saturday, Eden Court, Inverness January 20 - 23, His Majesty’s, Aberdeen January 27 - 30, and Theatre Royal, Newcastle February 3 - 6.