The Shingle Dance

The Shingle Dance revolves around the bizarre and traumatic rehabilitation of the dancer Max Helter, after the loss of both legs in a dreadful accident. After hospitalisation, he finds sanctuary in a long abandoned Life Boat Station, situated in a cliff fringed Cove.

A vivid and violent interaction ensues between the sea, land and Max’s battered psyche. The enclosed Cove is an emotional crucible, a ferment, in which Max struggles to appease his anger, and find new meaning.

His desperate need to dance, despite his crippling infirmity, finally manifests itself in the creation and construction of mechanical dancers, built from scrap, magic and dreams. All wishful extensions of himself, but they become much more.

Into each of his creations Max implants a small slither of flesh from his own body. A strange and unexplained metamorphosis takes place thereafter. The mechanisms begin to slowly change. They acquire sentience, sinew and a haunting litheness.

This is also a story of need, love, interdependence and hate; of predators, victims and saviours. The noxious discharge from an old outlet pipe on the beach, which once carried away the waste from a chemical plant, from somewhere inland gives birth to a feculent predatory live form, which ultimately clashes with Max and the Mechanical Dancers in the running Dance of Death.

The Rope Woman, is a sentient creature, woven from rope, string and hawser. In her bindings are contained the history of all the drowned sailors and ships lost on the Reef beyond the Cove. She’s an escapee from the reef, who finds a face in a rock pool. The lost reflection of a mermaid.

She is the child and creation of the Sirens, who occupy the Reef, and they want her back. Max finds her on the shore and offers her Sanctuary.

The debacle ensues, set against a background of song sounds, movement and finally…


The Unwinding.


It ends with a new found accommodation and the caring interaction of things new.

The Shingle Dance was written as a theatre project and adapted for opera. It now takes the form of a graphic novel.

© 1997 Ian Miller.

Shingle Dance – Ian Miller is an artist, illustrator and writer based in the U.K. He lives and works in Brighton, England.

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The Shingle Dance