Ayako Nakano was born in Japan and began her training in Tokyo. During her training she won the Tokyo Ballet Competition, the Asia Pacific Ballet Competition and in 1992 the Prix de Lausanne Scholarship Prize, which took her to the Royal Ballet School in London. In 1994 she became a soloist with the Ballet of Zurich Opera. She also danced at the Theater Köln, the Staatstheater Saarbrücken and the Komische Oper Berlin. Since 2001 she has been with the Ballett Theater Basel. During this time she has performed many solo roles, mainly in the works of Richard Wherlock. She danced works by choreographers such as William Forsythe, Mats Ek, Hans van Manen, Ohad Naharin, Nacho Duato, Jorma Elo, Johan Inger, Alexander Ekman and others. In 2013, she was a coach at the Prix de Lausanne.