Ashley, Merrill

Ashley, Merrill,

1950–, American ballerina, b. St. Paul, Minn. as Linda Michelle Merrill. She studied (1964–67) at the School of American Ballet, joining the parent New York City BalletNew York City Ballet
(NYCB), one of the foremost American dance companies of the 20th and 21st cents. It was founded by Lincoln Kirstein and George Balanchine as the Ballet Society in 1946.
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 (NYCB) in 1967 and becoming a principal dancer a decade later. Ashley was one of the last dancers to be mentored by and to become the muse of the choreographer George BalanchineBalanchine, George
, 1904–83, American choreographer and ballet dancer, b. St. Petersburg, Russia, as Georgi Balanchivadze. The son of a Georgian composer and a Russian mother, Balanchine attended (1913–21) the Imperial Ballet School, St.
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. Her personal style, which featured amazing speed, clarity, precision, and a joyous musicality, was ideal for a Balanchine soloist. Dances for which she was known include The Four Temperaments, Chaconne, Jewels, Concerto Barocco, Square Dance, and two ballets the maestro choreographed for her, Ballo della Regina (1978) and Ballade (1980). Jerome RobbinsRobbins, Jerome,
1918–98, American choreographer and dancer, b. New York City as Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz. Robbins began his career dancing in musicals (1937). In 1940 he joined the Ballet Theatre and in 1948 became associate artistic director of the New York City Ballet.
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 and Twyla TharpTharp, Twyla
, 1941–, American dancer and choreographer, b. Portland, Ind. An eclectic, innovative choreographer and dancer, she danced (1963–65) with Paul Taylor.
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 also choreographed expressly for Ashley. She briefly had her own company in the early 1980s. She retired from the stage in 1997 but continues to teach at the NYCB.


See her Dancing for Balanchine (1984).

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Ashley, Merrill (b. Linda Merrill)

(1950–  ) ballet dancer; born in St. Paul, Minn. After graduating from the School of American Ballet in 1966, she became one of the New York City Ballet's most acclaimed "Balanchine ballerinas."
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.