I was sacked for splitting HK Ballet, dancer writes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 January, 2010, 12:00am

The city's former top ballerina says in a new book that she was sacked last year for causing a split among troupe members and suspicion that she intended to join a dancers' strike.

Faye Leung, once the principal dancer of the Hong Kong Ballet, was fired in January last year by a board director, Linda Fung King, who said Leung was going in a different direction from the rest of the company.

The dismissal sparked public discussion about the board of the group having increased its influence over the company's artistic direction.

Leung was dissatisfied that the Hong Kong Ballet did not explain clearly what she had done wrong.

In her book, released yesterday, Leung reveals a conversation she had with the troupe's executive director, Evonne Tsui, in a meeting arranged a month after she was sacked.

Tsui is quoted saying there were three reasons for the sacking.

The first was that Leung was going in a different artistic direction from the group. The second was that Leung had been calling meetings with fellow troupe members and the company suspected she might go on strike with them. The third was that Leung had too much influence over other dancers and the troupe was splitting into factions.

'The whole operation of the troupe could be screwed up if it goes on like that,' Tsui told Leung, according to her book.

Leung said the sacking was the board's decision, as artistic director John Meehan was not informed of it and Tsui was not in Hong Kong when she was sacked.

Leung met the board's chairman, John Ying, in April, accompanied by her parents and Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan.

In the meeting, Leung writes in her book, Ying said some choreographers had complained about Leung's attitude to her work.

The chairman said he had already warned Leung, in a lunch meeting with board members, that she 'has to be a good girl'.

Leung rejects the board's criticism in her book, saying the troupe was her 'second family' and the meetings were called to 'strengthen the communication' with her team members.

A Hong Kong Ballet spokesman said the company would not comment on the biography as it had signed an agreement with Leung barring both parties from further comment on the sacking. He did not say whether the company would take action against Leung over the book.

The book's Cantonese title refers to Leung's fading affinity for her red pointe shoes.

'Before I left ballet, I didn't realise there was a bigger world out there,' Leung said yesterday. 'I am still a ballerina, but I've opened many more doors.'

Leung has been invited to perform for the Hong Kong Dance Company this weekend and her next show will be with Franco Dragone Entertainment in Macau, an international competitor of Cirque du Soleil.

She said she wrote the book to let unhappy memories out of her system and to provide an account of events to her audience, adding that she could see herself working in the arts for the rest of her life.

Aside from dancing on stage, she would consider other roles as long as they were related to the arts.

She decided to remain in Hong Kong after her sacking because she felt she could not leave without getting some closure on the matter.