In the dance lexicon of Sutie Madison, an uncontrollable twitch is a beautiful thing.
A flailing arm and jerking head are the equivalent of a graceful pirouette.
Dance, for Madison, is an art form whose choreography is based on the symptoms of the Ambler artist's neurological disease.
"We take the tics and teach them," Madison, 32, said last week.
Since she was 8, the multimedia artist has lived with Tourette syndrome, a disorder marked by vocal and oral tics that include grunting, barking, head jerking, and arm-flailing.
Madison has taken those symptoms and used them to create a new dance aesthetic for a group she founded in 2011 called Band of Artists.
The troupe of performers, several of whom have Tourette or other medical conditions, use their disabilities to inform their art in performances that are no sappy plea for acceptance.
"We're not really going for tolerance," Madison said. "We want people to leave wishing they had Tourette's."
In a piece that Madison created, "Intersection," dancers in business suits militaristically try to fit into the workday world only to have their tics take over.
The troupe will perform the work along with others in a performance May 30 at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown. Band of Artists has also been featured in the Philly Fringe Festival.
Madison's founding of Band of Artists marked a turning point in the choreographer's years of coping with Tourette.
She began showing signs at 8 but was not diagnosed until 13. The condition didn't turn her into an outcast. She had good friends. But she tried to hide and suppress her symptoms.
As a student at Arcadia University in Glenside, she made a video of herself twitching to see what it looked like on camera. Madison called it "The Twitch Trials." When Alan Powell, a communications professor, saw it, he was intrigued.
"Sutie has a unique way of moving and experiencing the world," said Powell, 60. He told her to "claim that as your brushstroke - like you'd know Van Gogh by the pattern of his brushstrokes, you'd know a Sutie Madison by her movements."
Powell advised Madison to attend a program developed by the Everette Performing Arts Center in Rhode Island that examined the connection between brain disorders and the arts. Madison collaborated with the company on a project based on Tourette.
"When I came back, I said I'm doing this," Madison said.
Within a few months, she found dancers, rented space, choreographed a piece, and found musician Stephen DiJoseph to perform with the Troupe.
DiJoseph, of Doylestown, also has Tourette. The symptoms started at 6, and the diagnosis came at 16. He twitched and cursed.
"It was embarrassing," said DiJoseph, 45. "My parents struggled with the embarrassment."
For a brief time, he took Haloperidol, an antipsychotic drug used to treat severe cases, but it didn't help.
DiJoseph hid out in the music room at high school, where he soon found an outlet in the keyboards. He went on to become a professional musician, and his tics have become part of his performance and his music.
DiJoseph plays his compositions as part of Band of Artists in performances that also includes a short presentation about Tourette from James Cook, Madison's neurologist.
Matthew Clifford, a graphic artist whose Tourette dissipated drastically after he turned 16, has created an animated piece called "Tics and Tones" for the performance.
"It's about how it's hard to be different, and easy to be defined by the difference rather than the myriad of qualities beneath it," said Clifford, 44, of Warminster.
At a recent rehearsal, the troupe practiced at the Community Education Center in University City.
They rehearsed "The Unveiling." Dancers twitch beneath a veil that eventually is cast aside to reveal the movements unfettered.
Darcy Lyons of Philadelphia has been part of the troupe since its beginnings.
As someone who has clinical depression, Lyons says she can relate.
"Sutie's vision is really unique," said Lyons, 27. "My demons and imperfections are allowed in performance, and it's liberating."