We spoke with School of Dance MFA graduate student and guest teacher Shane Davis, also known as Janice Janice Janice, about his evolution into dance, drag, teaching and self realizations about his true self.
By Noelle Sharp.
Tell us about yourself: Name, where you are from, what you do and how you got into in your field of work.
My name is Shane Davis. I also go by the performing name of Janice Janice Janice. I am most recently from Provo, Utah, where I attended Brigham Young University garnering a Bachelors of Arts in Modern Dance. I grew up near Seattle, WA, Houston, TX, and Albuquerque, NM.
What do I do?
Right now I am working on my MFA in modern dance and the graduate certificate in Gender Studies. I hope to be a choreographer for various venues, including music videos, Broadway and different dance troupes. Outside of academia, I perform as Janice Janice Janice around Salt Lake City. I have not become to proliferated in the Drag scene here in SLC but I hope to make my mark a little more pronounced in the coming months after graduation. I have been accepted as a performer at the Austin International Drag Festival which takes place in November. I am also currently teaching a course entitled "Dragging Gender into the 21st Century" that is a seminar type survey course that is part discussion of issues in and around Drag and part embodiment of the subject matter.
My sister Amanda, who is one of my best friends and mentor, encouraged me to go into both modern dance and Drag. I began my undergraduate career at BYU in the film program, but once one of my instructors said that my film art should primarily testify of Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, I quit the program and drifted around for a couple of semesters. My older sister suggested that I take a modern dance class. I did and I fell in love. Years later, once I returned from an LDS mission and after coming out to Amanda as gay, she encouraged me to watch RuPaul's Drag Race. I got around to it and fell in love with that performance form and decided to try it out. I participated in the first (that we know of) Drag pageant in Utah county and won second place. I have since been involved with the scene here, and have won first place at the Miss City Weekly pageant that kicks off pride weekend each summer.
I decided to come to grad school after working a year in a dead end job after graduation with my undergraduate degree and I had a panic moment. That that job was not what I wanted to do with my life. I had more to learn. So I begged the director of the MFA program to allow me to audition (as I was a few months late) and the modern dance faculty granted me an audition and accepted me. I then also discovered the Graduate certificate in gender studies and decided to pursue that as I lacked sophisticated and critical thinking on the topics of sexuality and gender. I wanted to fill in holes of my understanding and to push my thinking.
What has surprised you the most in your life?
Uhf, that I'd be here of all places. Five years ago, I was still immersed in Mormonism and trying to adhere to their standards of compulsory daily drag. I had even gone back into the closet, telling my parents to disregard my previous coming out and that I was going to date women and make things work out in the path that they had chosen for me from the time the first ultrasound dubbed me a "boy." Now to see a crown and trophy hinting at my wins in a somewhat subversive art form, and also teaching a university course on Drag, is a tad surreal. I have traded in my missionary ties for high heels.
What do you wish you had known/been told?
I know this is kinda out of left field (what... a sports reference?), but I wish I had know or been told that I was not a freak and that I was ok to not be the same as the other "boys." I wish I had known that there were many ways to be a person in this world and to not have the yearning to put myself in a restrictive box. I wish I had come out at an earlier age and been stronger in my sense of self. I wish I had known about queer and feminist theories. Theorizing can be therapeutic and healing. I wish I had known that it was ok to experiment, ok to be fluid, and ok to fail.
Read about Davis's "Dragging Gender into the 21st Century" class here. Photos courtesy of Shane Davis. Photo credits: Anna Day @moabchica, Steve Conlin @steve_conlin_photo, and Gilbert Garcia @instaguygil
Interested in contributing to this series? Contact Noelle Sharp.