SYCAMORE – Lily Bickley of Sycamore is a dancer, model and Instagram celebrity – and she is only 13 years old.
Bickley has more than 15,500 followers on Instagram, models for magazines, stock photos and dancewear catalogs and has been dancing for seven years.
Bickley has been chosen from 2,800 candidates as one of the dancers who will represent Illinois in the national “Dance across the USA” project.
“Dance across the USA” will create a book of photographs highlighting US National Parks and dancers from all 50 states.
The project’s creators will travel more than 16,700 miles across America to meet dancers and photograph them in a national park, state park or historic location in their home state. Proceeds from the book will benefit the National Park Service and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Locations include the Dry Tortugas Islands in Florida, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Bickley will take photos the weekend of Aug. 26 at the Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.
Bickley and her mother, Melanie Bickley, met with MidWeek Reporter Katrina Milton to discuss the “Dance across the USA” project, dancing, modeling and what the future has in store for the teenage dancer.
Milton: How long have you been dancing?
Lily Bickley: I’ve been dancing since first grade, so seven years. I started with tap class, and then I signed up for all the classes I could. Ever since I saw the Orchesis group at Sycamore High School, I’ve been really excited about dancing.
Milton: How often do you dance?
Lily Bickley: I dance three hours a day, every day except Friday and Sunday. During the school year, I dance about 20 hours a week. During the summer, I dance more. I dance at Dance Dimensions in DeKalb: ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, modern, lyrical and pointe.
Milton: Can you tell me more about dancing pointe?
Lily Bickley: I have been doing pointe for almost two years. I buy new dance shoes for pointe every two to three months, and they cost about $100. We have to go to Barrington to buy them. It depends on how many hours you’re doing pointe before they need to be replaced.
Milton: What emotions do you feel when you dance?
Lily Bickley: Performing isn’t scary anymore. When I’m on stage, sometimes I get nervous, but I’m fine after taking a few deep breaths. … I love turning and dancing contemporary. Most of my friends dance, and it’s fun being with them. We can make up dances together.
Milton: How did you start modeling?
Lily Bickley: I started an Instagram account with friends, and I have almost 16,000 followers. At first, it was dancing and posing with friends, but now I work with photographers. … I’ve been in a couple of magazines, dancewear companies’ catalogs and have posed for stock images for Shutterfly. I’ve also traveled a lot for modeling. I’ve been to Florida, Indiana, Wisconsin, Chicago and the suburbs.
Milton: How did Lily get involved with “Dance across the USA?”
Melanie Bickley: She applied online. First, she submitted a photo, and was sent an email asking for a headshot and video. There were 2,800 applicants, and 150 were picked. She will take photos in the Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois the weekend of Aug. 26. Two other dancers from Illinois will be there, too. It’s our first time there, we’ve never been there before.
Milton: Does Lily compete often?
Melanie Bickley: She used to do a lot of competitions, but last year, she only did two. This year, she might not do any. We find that competitions are more for groups, not really individual dancers. I let her pick and choose what she wants to do. She does a lot of traveling. I want time for her to just be a kid.
Milton: What do you do when you’re not dancing or modeling?
Lily Bickley: I’m on the track team and dance team at school. I don’t have a lot of down time, but I watch TV, I play with my cat. I love to shop.
Milton: What are your goals for the future?
Lily Bickley: In the future, I hope to do more modeling. I love design. My brother does graphic design, and I’d like to do costume design or interior design. I’ll be going into eighth grade this year. I’d like to one day make the high school dance team and Orchesis. I think that participating in “Dance across the USA” is really cool. I like to meet people. It’s fun to see new styles and learn from everyone.