Born in Alameda, California, Edward Hillyer trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and the National Academy of Arts, where his talent propelled him to a career as principal dancer with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Known for his dramatic, dynamic style, rigorous work ethic and command of both classical and neoclassic styles, Hillyer was a sought-after soloist with major companies, including the Hamburg Ballet and New York's Lar Lubovitch Dance Company from the late '70s through the '80s. He was proclaimed Canada's "dancer of the year" in 1982.
Hillyer's choreography was noted for its clean lines, musicality and precision. Pour Brad, his 1983 choreographic tribute to his late brother, was well received, followed by Epreuve de Force, Reach of Children, Slow Down Old World, Le Corps Constellé, A Priori, Masquerade Suite, Voix de Disparition, De Profundis, culminating in his 1989 Descente de Croix, for which he was honored with the prestigious Clifford E. Lee Choreography Award.
Concurrent with work presented at premier dance companies throughout North America, Hillyer choreographed for opera and film. An enthusiastic and charismatic presence made him a teacher of choice for the l'École Supérieure de ballet du Québec, in open classes within Canada's professional dance community and abroad; as a master teacher with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens; and a guest ballet master with The National Ballet of Canada, Ballet Preljocaj, Nederlands Dans Theater and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, among others. Combining a love of travel and an irrepressible enthusiasm for his art, Hillyer particularly enjoyed working as ballet master and teacher for the Beijing Ballet and Ballet Philippines.
Edward is predeceased by his parents and his brother Brad. He is survived by two brothers, Cameron McLeod and Chris Hillyer. A celebration of Edward's life and work is planned for May in Montréal.