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This Is Northern New South Wales

Who’s that Dancin’ Man?

  • People

Tommy Franklin
Words and Photos by Heath Missen

Exhausted by the all-consuming nature of the city beast, I packed by bags and relocated to Byron January of 2011. I was seeking change, a freethinking, creative community and beautiful landscape – a place perhaps even more serene than Bonnie Doon.

It was a late summer evening, under the Norfolk pines, as part of the audience of travelers who gathered to study the rhythm of the ocean at days end that I was first introduced to Thomas Franklin. Despite her best efforts, Mother Nature was not to have a monopoly on her own stage, entering stage right from beneath the surf life saving club, wearing mix matched converse trainers, danced Thomas. Beneath headphones, his movement like that of a mime artist, shuffling his way along the path that divides the lawn of Main Beach, seemingly oblivious to the eyes, smiles and the occasional questioning glance that followed in his wake. Reaching path’s end, his silence broken with, “it’s hip to be square”, he then departed, stage left.

I quickly discovered that Thomas’s public shimmying was in fact commonplace, features on various Youtube clips, and more recently a facebook fan page has been launched dedicate do ‘Dancing Tommy’.

Over the coming months our paths would cross, most often Thomas was dancing. Other moments he was stationary, we shared conversation, spoke of Byron, life, love and society – I quickly learned that beneath the surface, Dancing Tommy was a very gentle, generous, and thoughtful man with a healthy zest for life, music movement and creativity.

Thomas’s motivation to dance is very simple, it makes him happy, is a form of expression and is an effort to reminds others to quash their inhibitions, embrace the moment and have fun. Dance is his creative outlet – he also mentioned that right move on a dance floor can be a vehicle for meeting women.

Recently, I asked Thomas if I could photograph him, pitching the concept of wanting to illustrate both his serious and playful sides. In his usual gracious way, he obliged.

One word of caution – do not approach this man with intentions of a ‘dance off’.