Seven (or Eight) Minutes in Stuttering Heaven
Dance artist Liam McLaughlin tells us about creating a performance that expresses his experience of stammering. Watch it below.
My name is Liam and I am a dance artist and sound designer from New York. As someone who stutters, I've always looked to explore the through-lines between my dysfluency and the kind of choreographic worlds I create: Where do these pieces of my life converge? Where do they begin to fall out of sync? And how do they inform each other as partners in a dance?
Last year, I had the opportunity to present a solo work in New York City titled 'Seven (or Eight) Minutes in Stuttering Heaven'. The goal of this performance was to use storytelling, improvisation and the aesthetics of my stammering to try and unravel some of my personal assumptions and societal expectations around fluency and efficiency.
It blew my mind how many people, from varying entry points, deeply understood that struggle of trying to reach the impossible success of 'perfect communication'.
The rehearsals began with a simple writing exercise: "My favourite thing about having a stutter is __________", I wrote in my notebook. I proceeded to fill up my page, and then I repeated the process with a new prompt: "Something I want to get better at with my stutter is __________." From those responses, I began to pull certain motifs, words and repetitions that would become the seeds for movement phrases ('slowing down', 'listening', 'intertwined', 'the art of letting go' to name a few).
As I played with and refined the piece, I ended up with the performance that I am sharing with the STAMMA community with my video below. It's one of my proudest moments, not just because it was a fully realised idea that touched on something I've always felt was so personal and close to my heart. But the audience response was so overwhelmingly supportive and it blew my mind how many people, from varying entry points, deeply understood that struggle of trying to reach the impossible success of ‘perfect communication’.
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This exploration of stammering and movement has taught me how valuable sharing and connecting with other peoples' stories is. I wouldn't have got to the point of making a work like this if it wasn't for other stammering artists who were brave enough to share their ideas and dreams with the world. Folks like the musician JJJJJJerome Ellis, researcher Joshua St. Pierre, podcaster and campaigner Maya Chupkov, and designer Conor Foran (to name a few), who have created, questioned and etched new pathways for stammerers like me to follow right behind and keep expanding the world together through our words, our sounds, our movements.
If you have the chance to check out my work I'd be so grateful to hear any thoughts you may have about it. Feel free to leave a comment on my YouTube video, reach out to me on Instagram (@liam.m4a) or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have something you'd like to share? Tell us about your stammering-inspired artistic expressions through dance, music, art, poetry, etc. Or write an article about your journey with stammering. See Submit Something For The Site.
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