Douglas/Steinman ProductionsFilms

The Dance Goodbye

As seen on public broadcasting’s New York station WNET/THIRTEEN.

Prima Merrill Ashley, a reigning ballerina of the New York City Ballet, retired in November, 1997, after 30 years with the company. When she danced, she was famed for her speed, energy and devotion to the purity of Balanchine's steps. Today she is revered as the last living link to Balanchine, who was inspired to create his final ballets for her. But her life is forever changed.

The dancer is an artist. Their instrument is their body. The body does not last.

The DANCE GOODBYE is a documentary portrait of a dancer's life when the dance is done and the steps she has taken into a new day.

The film offers that rare glimpse behind the scenes into the reality of a dancer's life, a close in look into the drama at a time of wrenching struggle when a dancer's performing days have ended and a major career is over.

What happens when a dancer can no longer dance? What passion, if any, will replace the love of performance? Most dancers from childhood, Merrill included, have so centered their lives around the demands of dance that little thought and less preparation have been given to another way of working and being in the world.

Douglas/Steinman Productions was there as Merrill Ashley confronted these difficult questions, from shortly after her farewell performance until today, when she has found her way to a new life.

Ashley extended her complete cooperation--opening her daily life to us as she made the rounds of doctors, health club workouts, hip operations, summers in Saratoga, and as she took up teaching duties with the New York City Ballet and then many other dance companies worldwide. We have been with her at home, backstage at the New York City ballet, in session with young hopeful dancers.

Ashley also granted filmmakers Eileen Douglas and Ron Steinman extraordinary access to her inner life, thoughts, and feelings during this difficult time. In interviews which are touching and candid, Ashley is articulate, moving, intelligent, and revealing as she shares her thoughts on what dance means to her, and the impact of its loss.

The filmmakers also have been given access to a treasure trove of archival materials, including personal photographs, performance photos and videos, programs, rehearsal videos, gathered along the way as Ashley rose to stardom at the highest order in the arts world.

For Merrill Ashley, retiring from the stage where every moment with the music was heaven, the most creative act she has faced has been creating a new way to step through life. The dance goodbye.


"I've always been a huge fan of New York City Ballet ballerina Merrill Ashley, and her transition story will touch the heart of every lover of dance; and more importantly every dancer who will face this challenge—it certainly touched mine. This project is a must see!"
— Chita Rivera 2-time Tony Award; Kennedy Center Award; Presidential Medal of Freedom; Rolex Dance Award

"An excellent documentary on Merrill Ashley's career and her goodbye...Bravo! Bravo!"
— Jacques d'Amboise, Former Principal Dancer, NYCB & Founder,
National Dance Institute


The Dance Goodbye DVD Cover