Merrill Ashley was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and raised in Rutland, Vermont where she started dancing at age seven. By age thirteen, she was awarded the opportunity to attend the Ford Foundation Scholarship Program where he continued to train with the School of American Ballet. At age sixteen, George Balanchine invited her to join the corps de ballet of the New York City Ballet, and over the course of a decade, Ashley made her way from corps to soloist to principal dancer. Balanchine choreographed many ballets just for Ashley including Ballo dela Regina and Ballade. She also stared leading roles in her repertory of ballets such as Sugarplum Fairy and Dewdrop in The Nutcracker and Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty. She danced all over the world, represented the United States in the 40th Anniversary of UNESCO, and was a guest artist with many ballet companies. Ashley is one of the few of Balanchines’ dancers to carry on his legacy teaching today.