How passion and determination led Canadian ballerina Jessica Burrows to Hong Kong

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Hong Kong is an unbelievably fascinating destination that’s filled with unique opportunities for both tourists and those who move to the vibrant city. It’s an incomparable late-night party destination, full of cobblestone streets lined with boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. But Hong Kong’s flourishing arts scene is often overlooked.

Over the past decade, Hong Kong has become a hub for visual and performance art in Asia. Events like Art Basel Hong Kong and companies like the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and Hong Kong Ballet continuously draw an impressive international audience. 

The Hong Kong Ballet was founded in 1979 and has since evolved into a dynamic performing arts organization with a brilliant team of dancers from all over the globe, including Canadian ballerina Jessica Burrows. 

Jessica Burrows was nine years old when she was accepted into Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto. She graduated in 2008, eager to start her career journey and perform for audiences in sold-out theatres. 

Ready to get back on the main stage, she performed with the National Ballet of Canada for one year before making a bold, life-changing decision.

“I completed all of my dance training in Toronto and ended up staying for the first step of my career but I felt that a change of scenery would be good for me,” says Burrows, now a soloist for the Hong Kong Ballet. “I was told that the Hong Kong Ballet was looking for dancers so I flew out to New York to audition. I was basically offered the job on the spot. Because the company’s director was so friendly and enthusiastic, I took the opportunity.”

Hong Kong

Three months later, she arrived at the Hong Kong airport. She felt immediately overwhelmed by the weather and the city’s bright lights. 

“Joining the company, it was quite different than the National Ballet of Canada because it’s more tightknit. But after a few months of dancing with the company and adjusting to my new surroundings, I knew I would enjoy working in Hong Kong,” says Burrows. 

Other than a brief two-year stint with the Boston Ballet, she’s remained in Hong Kong since arriving over a decade earlier. Between performance days and training classes, she can be found running the countryside trails or visiting art venues around the city.

“There’s this real hunger for creativity among the population here,” she says. “I think it’s because of the intense and competitive environment in Hong Kong – art offers a really nice escape from that.”

In addition to exploring the city’s art galleries and venues, visitors can dive into Hong Kong’s foodie scene. After working up an appetite from sightseeing, there are 69 Michelin-star restaurants, cartoon-themed cafés, and quirky eateries – think rabbits, classroom décor, and dining within an arts space.  

For those who love immersing themselves in the outdoors while on vacation, there are more than 500 hiking, biking, and walking trails that weave throughout Hong Kong’s countryside. Lantau Island and Lamma Island are two locations that should be included in everyone’s itinerary as boast phenomenal coastal views from the peak. 

Xiqu Centre

Visitors should set aside time to explore the West Kowloon Cultural District as well. The artsy, waterfront neighbourhood regularly hosts outdoor festivals and events. One of the must-visit venues is Xiqu Centre, a world-class performing venue for Chinese opera that the whole family can enjoy.

West Kowloon is also home to several popular eateries like Wonton Noodles Shop, Yau Mai Tei Fruit Market, and Mido Cafe. Street food enthusiasts should most definitely check out the Temple Street Night Market, which offers Hong Kong’s iconic curry fish balls, egg waffle, clay pot rice, and more. 

West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade

“The waterfront promenade gives you a gorgeous view of the city, which makes it the best place for picnics,” says Burrows. There’s nothing better than diving into a few takeout containers of mouthwatering street food while enjoying the district’s extraordinary panoramic view of Victoria Harbour.

When exploring West Kowloon, visitors will find two alluring outdoor venues, the Art Park and Freespace, where dance, music, and theatre performances frequently take place—many with a multicultural twist.

West Kowloon Freespace

Because Hong Kong’s diversity and charm continue to steal the hearts of its visitors, time and time again, it’s become quite the cultural melting pot.

“With Hong Kong having such an East meets West culture, there’s really something for everyone,” she says. “Each person who moves to the city brings a piece of their culture with them to share with others.”

For more information on the arts and culture scene in Hong Kong, visit Follow the Hong Kong Tourism Board on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for updates. 

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