The Hong Kong Ballet may be on its summer recess but the company is hardly resting. Not only is the troupe already preparing for The Nutcracker, a new version of the classic reimagined by Australian choreographer Terence Kohler that will have its world premiere this Christmas, but 30 of its dancers are also gearing up for a three-week tour of North America. Starting on Wednesday, they'll be performing a triple-bill contemporary programme at four major venues: Becket, Massachusetts, where they'll make their debut at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival; New Mexico and Colorado, as part of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet summer season; and Quebec, Canada, for the Festival Des Arts De Saint-Sauveur. The tour is crucial exposure for the troupe, says the Ballet's artistic director, Madeleine Onne. For one, Jacob's Pillow, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary, is a prestigious dance, music and art festival in the US; on the bill this year are groups such as the Joffrey Ballet, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Luna Negra Dance Theatre. By going on tour, the dancers also get the chance to perform to a wider audience. 'It's not enough to do 45 performances [a season] as we have today,' Onne says, gesturing at a large calendar on the wall covered in neon Post-it stickers. 'These dancers are just too good.' The tour will add 12 more shows to this year's schedule. Apart from the increase in performances, the tour will also give the dancers a chance to focus on contemporary works - a genre that has yet to catch on in Hong Kong. The triple-bill will feature Black on Black by Kinsun Chan and Peter Quanz's Luminous - both are specially commissioned for the Ballet - as well as Nils Christe's Symphony in Three Movements set to music by Stravinsky. The Jacob's Pillow audience is hungry for contemporary ballet, says Onne. 'It's a knowledgeable audience, which is very nice. They're very interested and positive but very picky. That's also nice.' As for the enduring preference in Hong Kong for classical ballets, she chalks that up to it being a Western art form in an Asian society. Ballet is also a fairly recent introduction to the city. The Hong Kong Ballet celebrated its 33rd birthday this year compared with 240 years in Sweden, where Onne is from. 'It's not so strange that not everyone thinks of going to the ballet the first thing when someone asks, 'What should we do tonight?' It's like if I brought Cantonese opera to Sweden. I don't think that would be easy to sell more than a few performances a year either.' At the moment, the company is dominated by dancers who hail from the mainland. Onne says that's partly due to a genetic predisposition. 'As you go further south, the people get shorter. The bodies of [northern] Chinese are better suited for ballet. I try to have a good mixture that reflects the society we are living in, which is mainly Chinese and then with a little extra spice of others.' But she says she's just taken on a graduate from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, bringing the number of locally born dancers up to four. Onne is confident the company will impress audiences overseas, which should in turn help build a fan base at home. 'If we get good reviews, which I'm pretty sure we will, then maybe it will open eyes for people here. I don't think that the people are aware of what a treasure they have. 'We have to help them realise that they should ... and that will take some time but we won't give up,' Onne says. 'It's important that we eat well, have a good place to live, have good medical care and a good education, but we also need art or else we are quite poor.'