A top ballerina with the Hong Kong Ballet has been sacked - weeks before the troupe is due to appear in the Arts Festival for the first time since 1995. The departure of Faye Leung, who has been with the Ballet for 13 years, may affect the morale of the 30-year-old troupe. One insider said: 'It will be a devastating blow to the company.' On Friday, Leung, a principal ballerina, was asked by Ballet board member Linda Fung to leave the company immediately. 'I asked her why I couldn't just finish the contract, which ends in May/June,' said Leung, who was cast in all four pieces in the mixed bill the troupe is putting on from February 13 to 15 during the city's arts showpiece. 'I asked why [the decision was made] with no warning and I was told that it was just a decision by board members - that's all. I was so shocked. I didn't do anything wrong. 'Fung then said my direction and the company's direction were going different ways.' The group's outgoing artistic director, John Meehan, who was on leave last week, was not informed of the decision. 'When I heard the news of Faye's dismissal, I was dismayed I had no warning,' he said. 'I've never heard of a situation where the dancer is dismissed without the artistic director's knowledge.' Meehan said Leung was an 'extremely valuable member' of the company, something that had been reflected in the casting of the All Bach programme for the festival, which features William Forsythe's Steptext, George Balanchine's Concerto Barocco, Stanton Welch's Clear and Wang Xinpeng's Mein Bach (My Bach). 'I think all those who have come to mount the ballet were very impressed with Faye's abilities,' Meehan said. 'Faye is dancing at her peak ... and this would be an enormous loss for the company.' Sandra Jennings, of the Balanchine Trust, which allows Hong Kong Ballet to perform Concerto Barocco, said Leung's dismissal saddened her. 'I just finished working with her ... I cast the ballet on behalf of the Balanchine Trust and it is a shame that the public won't get to see her dance the principal women in the ballet.' A statement issued by the Ballet's executive director, Evonne Tsui, confirmed that Leung had been 'released from the company', but offered no explanation. 'The Ballet is in extremely good shape and has a strong bench of outstanding principal dancers including Jin Yao and guest artist Tan Yuanyuan,' she said. It is understood that Tan has yet to confirm any appearances in Hong Kong this year. The Home Affairs Bureau, which funds the troupe, said it had not been told of the board's decision to dismiss Leung and would 'need some time to understand the situation'. Tisa Ho, executive director of the Arts Festival, said the latest development 'will add to the changes the company has to deal with'.