Drag, Gender, and the Body: A new class within the School of Dance by Shane Davis

March 23 2017

By Emerging Leaders Ambassador and Guest Writer, Rachel Luebbert

One of the first things you do each morning is put clothes on. You make decisions of what to wear and what not to wear, covering your body in very specific ways. This is an act of drag and although it might be unconscious at times, it influences the way the world receives us.

Shane Davis, a third grad student in the Modern Dance program founded a new class this semester entitled “Dragging Gender into the 21st Century” that explores these themes. Davis explained, “My course looks at how drag, both the intentional art form and the subconscious daily routine, can be used to examine gender normativity.” This course presents a critical lens to analyze the role of drag across history and in the 21st century.

Natalie Oliver, a grad student in the Art & Art History Department decided to take this course because it aligned with her own studio practice research. Oliver explains, “I develop different personas in my studio work. This course has helped me understand the history of Drag as well as the different ways to perform my created characters.” This class, for example, is structured with a variety of readings that unpack the history of drag, along with performance exercises, guest speakers, and even make-up tutorials. Each of these classes is intended to prepare students for their creative final performance. Oliver explained that one of the most impactful readings for her surrounded the Medieval European transvestite saints who were women who would dress like men, then join the church in order to escape a forcefully oppressive life. Oliver mentioned, “This topic allowed me to consider Drag history from a female perspective, as opposed to a male perspective.” Throughout this course, Davis initiates conversations on what is considered masculine and feminine and how we can co-switch between all these symbols as we negotiate identity within the body.

In addition to this course, Davis is presenting his thesis “We Gender and So Can You” which also explores the interplay of drag, gender, and the body. This original work premieres on March 24th and is composed of nine different puzzle pieces that each react to different parts of gender. Davis explains, “I explore how we can be less serious about the institution of gender to create more of an openness to others.” One of these pieces was inspired by the societal construct that has taught women to take up less space than men. This piece includes a quartet of women that are taking up space, eating it up, splicing through it and commanding a reaction. This will be an exciting evening of exploring the identity we as individuals adopt based on the forces of society, drag, gender, and the body.

“We Gender and So Can You” premiers March 24th at 9:45PM, $5 entry fee at the Metro Music Hall (615 West 100 South).

*Must be 21 and up (a later presentation will be shown that is open to all ages).