Zhiyao Zhang was born in Jiangsu, China. He began his ballet training at the Secondary School at Beijing Dance Academy in 2004 at the age of 11. Zhang has competed in numerous competitions including the Beijing International Ballet Invitational Competition (in which he placed first), Taolibei Dance Competition and Youth America Grand Prix. In 2011, Zhang competed in the Prix de Lausanne, where he placed third overall.
Zhang joined the ABT Studio Company in 2011. He joined American Ballet Theatre as an apprentice in November 2012 and the corps de ballet in June 2013. His repertoire includes the Bronze idol in La Bayadère, the Lead Gypsy in Don Quixote, the Russian Dance and Harlequin in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, the Bluebird and a Fairy Cavalier in The Sleeping Beauty, Benno and the Neapolitan Dance in Swan Lake and a role in Bach Partita. He created a role in Aftereffect.