JOHANNESBURG

It's danced to Tchaikovsky's famous melody, but it's not your traditional Christmas Nutcracker: the Joburg Ballet has set it in the Kalahari desert among ancient Bushmen paintings.

The winter theme has been replaced with sun, sand and baobab trees. The role of the Sugar Plum Fairy is instead played by a sangoma or traditional healer, and the famous "Russian Dance" is performed in overalls and gumboots. "The Nutcracker Reimagined" comes with the original music and story line of France's famous ballet dancer and choreographer Marius Petipa -- during Christmas night. And a little girl named Clara experiences a magical adventure. But with no snowflakes or tutus, Clara is led by a sangoma through the Kalahari Desert, where the cave paintings come to life. And a baobab is all there is for a Christmas tree. Christmas in the southern hemisphere comes around midsummer so "trying to pretend that it's winter outside, is a little bit ridiculous," said Dirk Badenhorst, CEO of the Joburg Ballet.

"So the idea was to create a South African Nutcracker that would tell the normal story of The Nutcracker, but in a South African setting and in summer."  "The Nutcracker Reimagined" was first created in 2008 by the Joburg Ballet's forerunner. It is on show again this year -- from September 19 through 27.

"This one is very, very different," says dancer Keke Chele, who plays the butler. "Like a traditional Xmas party when that uncle that you haven't seen in a long time comes to visit, those are the kind of characters that we get to explore and it's a lot of fun," he said. It is set in a magical world of South Africa 's sangomas, baobab trees, the gumboot dance - an invention of black miners -- and would not be complete without koeksisters, a traditional local sweet treat.