Zeynep Tanbay started her ballet training in Ankara, Turkey where she was born.
In 1981 she went to New York to study at Joffrey Ballet School and continued her training as a scholarship student in School of Cleveland Ballet, San Francisco Ballet School and Alvin Ailey Dance School.
In 1983 she joined the Minnesota Dance Theatre as a soloist and a year later became the principal dancer, performing classical repertoire as well as works of Balanchine, Glen Tetley, Loyce Houlton and others.
Having a serious surgery from her foot made an end to her classical ballet career and she continued her dancing in bare foot.
Returning to New York, she studied on scholarship at the Paul Taylor and Martha Graham Dance Schools.
Tanbay joined the Martha Graham Dance Company as a dancer and same time became a faculty member in Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance.
In 1994 she choreographed her first solo and performed it as a guest artist, with the Elisa Monte Dance Company touring to İstanbul in 1995.
In 1998, it was time to return back to her native country to continue to dance her own choreographies in her own company, which she initiated in 2000 under the name Zeynep Tanbay Dance Project.