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Who was the ecstatic “Dancing Man” in the iconic video filmed after the end of WWII?

The Dancing Man is the name given to the man who was filmed dancing on the street in Sydney, Australia, after the end of World War II. On 15 August 1945, a reporter took note of a man’s joyful expression and dance and asked him to do it again.

The man consented and was caught on motion picture film in an Australian edition of the newsreel Movietone News. The film and stills from it have taken on iconic status in Australian history and culture, and symbolize joyous elation to war’s end.

There has been much debate as to the identity of the dancing man. Frank McAlary, a retired barrister claims that he was the man photographed pirouetting in Elizabeth Street, Sydney, on 15 August 1945. A Queen’s Counsel, Chester Porter, and a former Compensation Court judge, Barry Egan, both claim to have seen Mr. McAlary being filmed dancing.

The television program Where Are They Now, produced by Australia’s Seven Network, attempted to solve the mystery of the dancing man’s identity. The network hired a forensic scientist who examined the film reel and picture and came to the conclusion that it was indeed McAlary.

The Royal Australian Mint, however, chose to portray Ern Hill as the dancing man on a 2005 issue $1 coin commemorating 60 years since the World War II armistice. Mr. Hill has made a statement that, “The camera came along and I did a bit of a jump around.”The coin, sculpted by Wojciech Pietranik, does not bear any name.

Rebecca Keenan of Film World Pty. Ltd., says the dancer may be Patrick Blackall.Mr. Blackall has claimed, “I’m the genuine dancing man,” and has signed statutory declarations that he is the man in the film. These remain not alone as many others maintain a claim to the moment, it is not conclusive and may never be.

Frank A. Epton, a retired Chartered Accountant living in Alstonville, NSW before he died in February 2013, claimed that he was one of the soldiers in the background of the still image of the dancing man (the soldier without a hat). Papers and photos found in his possession during the administration of his estate support his assertion.

Neil Patrick

Neil Patrick is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News