Alessandra Ferri was born in Milan, Italy. She studied at Teatro alla Scala, Milan until the age of 15, and then attended The Royal Ballet School. She won one of the three Prix de Lausanne for 1980, which enabled her to continue her studies at The Royal Ballet School on scholarship. She joined The Royal Ballet in 1980, was promoted to Soloist in 1983 and to Principal in 1984.
With The Royal Ballet, Ferri created roles in L'Invitation au Voyage, Valley of Shadows (for which she won the 1982 Sir Laurence Olivier Award), Isadora, Consort Lessons, Different Drummer and the pas de deux Chanson. She also danced in The Royal Ballet's first performances of Napoli Divertissements, Illuminations and Return to the Strange Land. Also with The Royal, she danced in The Sleeping Beauty, Afternoon of a Faun, The Two Pigeons, Swan Lake, Mayerling, the title role in Manon and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, as well as roles in Voluntaries, Konservatoriet, Cinderella, La Bayadère and Les Biches. She was cast in the dancing role of Anna in Kenneth MacMillan's Seven Deadly Sins, Odette in Franco Zeffirelli's Swan Lake in Milan and the title role in Roland Petit's Carmen with the London Festival Ballet (now the English National Ballet). Ferri left The Royal Ballet in 1985, returning in 2003 to dance Juliet in Romeo and Juliet as a Guest Artist.
Ferri joined American Ballet Theatre as a Principal Dancer in 1985. Her roles with the Company include the title roles in Anastasia, Giselle and Manon, Nikiya in La Bayadère, Titania in The Dream, The Accused in Fall River Legend, the Glove Seller in Gaîté Parisienne, Taglioni in Pas des Déesses, the Youngest Sister in Pillar of Fire, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Princess Florine in The Sleeping Beauty, the Sylph in La Sylphide, Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew and leading roles in Other Dances, Some Assembly Required and Les Sylphides. She created a leading role in In Volo.
In the summer 1989, Ferri appeared with the Ballet National de Marseille where she danced in Roland Petit's Le Diable Amoreux, which Petit created especially for her. Her guest appearances have also included dancing the role of Juliet in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet with the National Ballet of Canada and the title role in Roland Petit's Carmen with the Paris Opera Ballet. In 1992, she became a permanent guest artist with La Scala in Milan.
Ferri temporarily retired from dancing in 2007 and the following year became Director of Programming at the Spoleto Festival. She returned to dance in 2013, starring in The Piano Upstairs, which she also choreographed, at Spoleto. Performances since have included Lea (Martha Clarke’s Chéri) for Signature Theatre and Luca Veggetti’s The Raven for Gotham Chamber Opera. In 2015, Ferri returned to The Royal Ballet as a guest artist to create a role in Wayne McGregor’s Woolf Works. In 2016, she returned to ABT as a Guest Artist, dancing the Pie Jesu solo from Kenneth MacMillan's Requiem and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.
Ferri was named a Cavaliere della Repubblica in 2006.