Born in Orlando, Florida and raised in Beckley, West Virginia, Ashford attended Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, in the pre-law program, graduating in 1982. He became interested in theatre with his work in the theatre department, and went on to study dance at Pittsburgh’s Point Park University Conservatory of Performing Arts, graduating in 1983. He performed in the Pittsburgh theatre scene while in college, appearing with such companies as Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. After graduation, Ashford moved to New York City where he shared an apartment with friend and fellow choreographer Kathleen Marshall.
As a dancer, Ashford made his Broadway debut in the 1987 Lincoln Center revival of Anything Goes starring Patti LuPone. Productions of The Most Happy Fella (1992), Crazy for You (1992), My Favorite Year (1992) (also Dance Captain), Victor/Victoria (1995) (also Dance Captain) and Parade (1998) (also Dance Captain and Assistant Choreographer) followed.
Ashford began working as a choreographer when Rob Marshall sent Ashford to re-stage Kiss of the Spider Woman in Buenos Aires. He next served as Associate Choreographer to Kathleen Marshall on the Broadway revival of Ring Round the Moon in 1999 and the 1999 Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate.
Ashford won the 2002 Tony Award for Best Choreography for the Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002). Additional Broadway choreography credits include the Roundabout Theatre production of The Boys from Syracuse at the American Airlines Theatre in 2002, The Wedding Singer (2006) (Tony Nomination), Curtains (2007) (Tony Nomination),  Cry-Baby (2008) (Tony Nomination) and Evita starring Ricky Martin (2012) (Tony Nomination).
He directed and choreographed Promises, Promises starring Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth in 2010 (Tony Nomination for Best Choreography) and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starring Daniel Radcliffe and John Laroquette in 2011, receiving Tony Nominations for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography of a Musical. He also directed Scarlett Johansson in the 2012 revival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" on Broadway.
For the New York City Center Encores! staged concert series, Ashford has choreographed: Tenderloin (2000), Bloomer Girl (2001), A Connecticut Yankee (2001), and Pardon My English (2004).
In London, Ashford's directing credits include: Parade at the Donmar Warehouse (2007)(Olivier Nominations for Best Director and Best Theatre Choreographer) and A Streetcar Named Desire in 2009 at the Donmar Warehouse starring Rachel Weisz (Olivier nomination, Best Revival). He directed a revival of Anna Christie, starring Jude Law at the Donmar Warehouse in 2011. This production won the Olivier Award for Best Revival. Ashford co-directed, with Jason Moore, the West End production of Shrek The Musical, which ran from 2011 to 2013 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. For the Manchester International Festival, Ashford directed Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston in Macbeth in 2013. The production transferred to the Park Ave Armory in New York City for a limited run in June 2014.
His choreography credits include Evita (2007 Olivier Nomination, Best Theatre Choreographer), Guys and Dolls at the Piccadilly Theatre starring Ewan McGregor and Jane Krakowski (2006 Olivier nomination for Best Theatre Choreographer), and Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Shaftesbury Theatre (2004 Olivier nomination for Best Theatre Choreographer). He choreographed a musical version of the film Finding Neverland which premièred in autumn 2012 at Curve, Leicester.
Film and television
For television, Ashford has choreographed tributes to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Barbra Streisand, Jerry Hermann, Meryl Streep, Barbara Cook and Shirley MacLaine for The Kennedy Center Honors. He was the choreographer for the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007 and 2009, and also a co-producer for 2011, 2012 and 2014. He collaborated with filmmaker Baz Luhrmann on a production number featuring Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé Knowles for The 81st Annual Academy Awards, and won the 2009 Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography. He also served as choreographer for the 85th Annual Academy Awards (2013) and 86th Annual Academy Awards (2014)  In December 2013, Ashford was stage director and choreographer of NBC's live television presentation, The Sound of Music Live!, and received a DGA Award Nomination.
Ashford choreographed a new production of Candide at the English National Opera (with subsequent productions at La Scala, Milan and La Chatelet Theatre, Paris). He directed The Barber of Seville for the Chicago Lyric Opera, which began performances on February 1, 2014.
Ashford is on the executive committee of The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Board of Trustees of The Joyce Theater, Artists' Committee for the Kennedy Center Honors, and has been an Associate Director at The Old Vic since 2012.
- Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002) (Tony Award)
- The Wedding Singer (2006) (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk Award nomination)
- Curtains (2007) (Tony Award nomination)
- Cry-Baby (2008) (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk Award winner (Outstanding Choreography), Fred Astaire Award, and Outer Critics Circle Award)
- Promises, Promises (2010) (Tony Award nomination for Choreography, Outer Critics Circle Award Nomination for Outstanding Choreographer)
- How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk Award nominations (Outstanding Director of a Musical and Outstanding Choreography), Outer Critics Circle Award nomination, Fred Astaire Award nomination) (2011)
- Evita (2012) (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk Award nomination, Outer Critics Circle Award nomination, Fred Astaire Award nomination
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (2013)
- Thoroughly Modern Millie (2003) (Olivier Award nomination)
- Guys and Dolls (2005) (Olivier Award nomination)
- Evita (2006) (Olivier Award nomination)
- Parade (2008) (Olivier Award nominations for Direction and Choreography)
- A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum (Royal National Theatre)
- Once in a Lifetime (2005) (Royal National Theatre)
- Candide (2008) - new production at the English National Opera (With subsequent productions at La Scala, Milan and La Chatelet Theatre, Paris)
- A Streetcar Named Desire (2009, Donmar Warehouse) (Olivier Award nomination)
- Anna Christie (2011) (Olivier Award Best Revival)
- "Tony Award-Winning Choreographer to Deliver Point Park University’s 50th Commencement Address" pointpark.edu, March 31, 2010
- Conner, Lynne (2007). Pittsburgh In Stages: Two Hundred Years of Theater. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 204. ISBN 978-0-8229-4330-3. Retrieved 2011-06-06
- Jones, Kenneth."Playbill On-Line's Brief Encounter with Rob Ashford" playbill.com, July 23, 2002
- Wolf, Matt. "Rob Ashford's journey: From dance steps to leader of the band" The New York Times, August 28, 2007
- "Rob Ashford" playbillvault.com, accessed February 4, 2014
- Cramer, Lyn.Interview, Rob Ashford "Creating Musical Theatre: Conversations with Broadway Directors and Choreographers", (books.google.com), 2013, ISBN 1408184591, pp. 4 and 7
- "'Ring Round the Moon' Credits" playbillvault.com, accessed February 4, 2014
- Simonson, Robert. "2002 Tony Award: Choreography, Rob Ashford, 'Thoroughly Modern Millie'" playbill.com, June 2, 2002
- Simonson, Robert. "Dromio, Dromio: Roundabout Opens Revised 'Boys from Syracuse' Aug. 18" playbill.com, August 18, 2002
- Gans, Andrew. "The Wedding Is Off: New Musical 'Wedding Singer' to Close in December" playbill.com, October 25, 2006
- Hernandez, Ernio. "Curtains Up: Kander and Ebb Musical to Play Broadway with Pierce and Monk" playbill.com, November 2, 2006
- Murray, Matthew. "Theatre Review, 'Cry-Baby'" talkinbroadway.com, April 24, 2008
- Gans, Andrew. "Goodnight and Thank You": Broadway Revival of 'Evita' Ends Run Jan. 26" playbill.com, January 26, 2013
- Brantley, Ben. "Theater Review. 'Promises, Promises'" The New York Times, April 26, 2010
- Hetrick, Adam. "Been A Long Day: 'How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying' Closes On Broadway May 20" playbill.com, May 20, 2012
- Hetrick, Adam. "Just the List: 2011 Tony Award Nominees" playbill.com, May 3, 2011
-  ibdb.com, accessed February 11, 2014
- "Listing, Encores!" nycitycenter.org
- Finkle, David. "Reviews. 'Bloomer Girl' " theatermania.com, Mar 23, 2001
- Portantiere, Michael. "Reviews. 'A Connecticut Yankee'" theatermania.com, February 12, 2001
- Brantley, Ben. "Theater Review; It's Springtime for Dresden In a Bubbly Era of Inhibition" The New York Times (webcache.googleusercontent.com), March 27, 2004
- "Olivier Winners 2008" olivierawards.com, accessed February 3, 2014
- "Olivier Winners 2010" olivierawards.com, accessed February 4, 2014
- Shenton, Mark. "Jude Law Stars in Rob Ashford's 'Anna Christie' at Donmar Warehouse, Opening Aug. 9" playbill.com, August 9, 2011
- "Olivier Winners 2012" olivierawards.com, accessed February 3, 2014
- " 'Charlie and The Chocolate Factory' to replace 'Shrek' at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane" westendtheatre.com, accessed February 3, 2014
- Macbeth mif.co.uk
- Purcell, Carey. "Immersive Production of 'Macbeth', With Kenneth Branagh, Closes at Park Avenue Armory June 22" playbill.com, June 14, 2014
- "Olivier Winners 2007" olivierawards.com, accessed February 3, 2014
- "Olivier Winners 2006" olivierawards.com, accessed February 3, 2014
- "Olivier Winners 2004" olivierawards.com, accessed February 3, 2014
- Jones, Kenneth."Borle, O'Hara, Kudisch, Peil, Moran, Davi Appeared in 'Finding Neverland' Reading" playbill.com, June 8, 2009
- Inverne, James. "National Theatre's 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum' Opens July 9" playbill.com
- " National Theatre Archive. 'Once in a Lifetime' 2005 Listing" catalogue.nationaltheatre.org.uk, accessed February 4, 2014
- " 'Beyond the Sea' Credits" The New York Times, accessed February 3, 2014
- "Academy Announces Oscar Production Team" deadline.com, January 15, 2014
- "Rob Ashford Television" nytimes.com, accessed February 4, 2014
- Gans, Andrew. "Ashford to Help Luhrmann Stage Oscar Number for Host Jackman" playbill.com, February 2, 2009
- Hetrick, Adam. Theatre "Veterans Collect Top Prizes at 2009 Emmy Awards" playbill.com, September 20, 2009
- Champion, Lindsay.  broadway.com, November 8, 2012
- Silverman, Gail.  oscars.org
- "The Sound of Music Live!" The New York Times, accessed February 3, 2014
- Purcell, Carey. "Rob Ashford-Helmed 'The Barber of Seville', Starring Nathan Gunn, Begins Feb. 1 at Lyric Opera of Chicago" playbill.com, February 1, 2014
- Hetrick, Adam."Tony Winner Rob Ashford to Stage Disney's Alice in Wonderland Musical" playbill.com, March 16, 2012
- "Houston Grand Opera launches 2014 with exceptional line-up" operamusicbroadcast.com, accessed February 3, 2014
- "Executive Board" sdcweb.org, accessed February 4, 2014
- "Board of Trustees" joyce.org, accessed February 4, 2014
- Shenton, Mark. "Sheridan Smith to Star in 'Hedda Gabler' at London's Old Vic; Rob Ashford Joins Theatre as Associate Director" playbill.com, June 12, 2012
- Gans, Andrew. Drama Desk Winners Receive Trophies July 22" playbill.com, July 22, 2008
- " 'Promises, Promises' Credits and Awards" playbillvault.com, accessed Fecruary 4, 2014
- Jones, Kenneth. "Drama Desk Awards Go to Book of Mormon, Normal Heart, War Horse, Sutton Foster, Norbert Leo Butz" playbill.com, May 23, 2011
- Hetrick, Adam. "Fred & Adele Astaire Awards, Honoring Liza Minnelli, Presented June 4" playbill.com, June 4, 2012
- Brantley, Ben. "Theater Review. 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,' at Richard Rodgers Theater" The New York Times, January 17, 2013
- Benedict, David.ReviewVariety, June 26, 2008
- Jones, Kenneth and Shenton, Mark. "Ashford-Directed Streetcar With Rachel Weisz Opens at Donmar" playbill.com, July 28, 2009
- Rob Ashford at the Internet Broadway Database
- Rob Ashford at the Internet Movie Database
- Biography American Theatre Wing
- Biography, filmreference.com
- Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Listing London Theatre Database