Merrill Ashley, 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 Ballet (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 Balanchine. 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 Robbins and Twyla Tharp 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).