An elegant retelling of William Shakespeare’s ancient tale Romeo and Juliet was performed by dancers from the Hong Kong Ballet (HKB) in New York this weekend.

The US premiere about the tragic star-crossed lovers took place at the iconic New York City Center in Manhattan on Jan 13 and 14 to a full house. The US tour will move on to North Carolina next on Jan 20 and 21.

Susan Liebell, an audience member from New Jersey praised the performance. “I loved the sets…especially the red ones, the men’s dancing was super compelling,” she told the media. “It was perfect in this theatre.”

Set in Hong Kong in the turbulent 1960s, HKB provided a fresh take on Shakespeare’s story. It transported audiences back in time by featuring an intricately designed set that kept changing, along with costumes that captured fashion from the era.

Septime Webre, HKB’s artistic director since 2017 told the media: “It’s inspired by the special vibrancy and dynamic energy of Hong Kong in the early 1960s, it was a pretty fascinating time of great change. The production is inspired by the nostalgia that Hong Kong people have with that era.”

In this rendition of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s father is an unrelenting Shanghainese tycoon who is determined to marry his only daughter off to a wealthy Caucasian man. But things go awry when she has eyes for another man.

The ballet was set to Sergei Prokofiev’s dramatic score, bringing retro Hong Kong alive for the audience, as dancers fuse dance and drama to showcase a society in flux in the visually stunning performance.

Webre’s original choreography seamlessly incorporates intense street battles rendered in traditional Hong Kong-style kung fu.

Established in 1979, HKB is one of Asia’s premier ballet companies. The vibrant performing arts organization has nearly 50 dancers, hailing from international locations including Australia, New Zealand, Europe and throughout North America.

Candy Nip, director of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in New York told the media: “Hong Kong ballet is one of the most refined and international ballet companies in Asia and we are very proud to showcase our talents, creativity and diversity and represent Hong Kong.”

The dancers of HKB have performed 50 tours in 11 countries worldwide in Europe, China and the US.

Qian Jin, Deputy Consul General, from The Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York told the media: “The ballet was wonderful because it’s a cultural exchange that we can share and know we have something in common.

“By using art and cultural activities, we know that no matter your race, or country that you’re from, we’re all the same. That’s important now, as the world faces global challenges.”

Heidi Lee, Executive Director of HKB told the media: “This performance is very meaningful to us as it’s being done after COVID, and is our biggest tour from Hong Kong in post COVID time.”

Along with performances at home and abroad, HKB is engaged with the community in Hong Kong ensuring that ballet is accessible to all. It’s online channel HKBALLET@HOME, has been watched by over 2 million people worldwide.