Barrowland Ballet’s show The Gift is a dazzling, mesmerising seasonal dance offering, which is delighting the children and families of the Highlands and bringing a vivid cloudburst of joy into the strange days of Christmas 2021.

Capoeiristas Joanne Pirrie and Rander Martins take the audience through the frantic minutes of a child desperately unwrapping a mountain of Christmas presents. This pleasure is only brief, however, with the discovery that one special toy needs batteries – which are not included. The sense of anticlimax is palpable. Pirrie’s pyjama-clad eagerness turns to a slumped disappointment, surrounded by cardboard, ribbons and bows. We feel the child’s acute, numbing loneliness.

Then, a magical, colourful creature (Martins) – exotic, pulsing with a coruscating energy – leaps forth. This is the real ‘gift’. Transforming the débris into the stuff of play, the creature joins with the child to pirouette, vault, and bounce to Natasha Gilmore’s gambolling choreography. We see wild monsters, birds, snails, snakes, swordfights, telescopes – a menagerie, a circus of delights. The two performers skate, paddle, twirl, somersault, and cartwheel in a tremendous acrobatic celebration of the power of the imagination. A charming soundtrack tinkles and jingles, matching perfectly the dancers’ lithe communication of this most creative story.

The child’s delight climaxes with the beautiful tableau the magical friend leaves her with. She sees a wonderland of sparkling lights, cascading ‘snow’, and the gorgeous harmony of two figures perfectly complementing one another’s movements.

Confirming the ‘less is more’ message, this most apposite Christmas story will have its young audience clapping, giggling, and gazing in wonder from start to finish.