THE Hongkong Ballet Company is preparing for a locally commissioned ballet - the company's first - for a June presentation which will herald the start of another performing season. The Strangers , the work of Hongkong's foremost choreographer Helen Lai, will make its debut in the programme ''Galaxy''. ''It is my first time to choreograph a ballet en pointe ,'' said Lai, the former art director of City Contemporary Dance Company. The Strangers is about a ballet rehearsal. It changes the audience's conventional notion of dance with a dash of humour and fantasy. Normally, audiences can only see the end product of rehearsal - the dance, Lai said. ''But I'm more interested in showing the 'process' that goes into the making of it. At this stage of my career, I'm concentrating on analysing dance structure.'' In her work, Lai pokes fun at a peripheral yet indispensable backstage figure called the stage manager. Although a nobody, the manager takes the centre stage when Lai turns his mundane duties of moving props, sweeping and co-ordinating into, amusingly, the dance itself. Light-flowing rhythm is replaced by the mysterious when strangers, including some ancient Chinese characters, interrupt to demand a place in the performance. The dramatic then follows, accented by music with the drum beats of traditional lion dance. The oriental touch in music gave a local element to this dance work, said composer Dr Chan Wing-wah, a senior lecturer at the Chinese University of Hongkong. Another specially commissioned ballet in ''Galaxy'' comes from veteran British choreographer Michael Corder. Corder's Danses Concertantes is a lively one-act dance inspired by Stravinsky's neo-classical music. The programme's third dance, Graduation Ball , makes a comeback after its well-accepted performance in 1991. Featuring the music of Johann Strauss, the humorous piece is about some young Viennese girls holding a party for the graduates of a military academy. ''Considering the expenses involved, the Hongkong audience is very fortunate to have opportunities to see new ballet pieces,'' said Mr Bruce Steivel, Hongkong Ballet's director. But the art scene might change if the Council for Performing Arts went ahead with its recent decision to freeze funds for the ballet company for three years, Mr Steivel added. ''This could mean a cut in the number of dancers from 34 to 20,'' he said. However, Mr Steivel believed that further discussions with the board of directors in the council would change their mind. ''Galaxy'', presented by Hongkong Ballet, will be staged at the Lyric Theatre of the Academy for Performing Arts from June 4 to 6. Tickets are now on sale at all URBTIX outlets (half-price for students and senior citizens). For more information, please call 573-7398.