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High Flying, Adored

by Steve Desroches

Five men, each wrapped in flowing bands of white silk, hang high above the stage in the gymnasium at the old high school on Winslow Street. Lit in streams of purple and blue, each performs an aerial ballet, and then suddenly they drop in unison, stopping just feet from the ground, eliciting a collective gasp and then cheers of delight from the audience. The circus is in Provincetown. But long gone are the days of Ringling Brothers or P.T. Barnum. Circus performance has evolved, as is evident by AirOtic, a show the likes of which Provincetown has never seen.

AirOtic is a sophisticated and sensual LGBT-themed circus show featuring acts of strength and daring, grace, and eroticism. A spin-off production from the French circus company Les Farfadais, AirOtic presents a highly stylized spectacle, bringing something completely new to Provincetown’s storied performance scene. With a European charm and a Las Vegas pizzazz, it’s stretched the imagination for what Provincetown is capable of hosting when it comes to live performance. From beginning to end in this 80-minute thrill show, the energy never falters and the surprises never stop.

This marks only the second American performance of AirOtic after its stateside debut in Fort Lauderdale this past winter. The ensemble features performers of a variety of backgrounds from Europe and the United States. Gymnasts, acrobats, and ballet dancers all honed their talents into a neo-circus tradition made famous by Cirque du Soleil. But AirOtic makes it wholly their own with its LGBT-centric aesthetic and combination of athleticism and artistry to create a gorgeous burlesque. Founded by Stephane Haffner in 2016, AirOtic first appeared on Atlantis Events cruises and when Haffner began to explore where to bring the show ashore, Provincetown proved to be a bit of a eureka moment.

“As soon as I walked into the town I knew I wanted to do the show here,” says Haffner. “This town is special. It’s magic. It’s like something out of a movie. I knew I wanted to do the show here right away.”

Born and raised in Torino, Italy, to an Italian mother and French father, Haffner had a childhood dominated by gymnastics training, with him eventually making the Italian national gymnastics team at only 17. But he soon sustained an injury that made it impossible to compete at that level. He also had just come out as a gay man, something his mother wanted to send him to so-called conversion therapy to change. His parents having divorced years earlier, his accepting father welcomed him to Paris, where Haffner began to pursue studies in fashion design. But he longed to be independent, and to do so he needed to make his own money and thus began performing on the street just outside the Centre Pompidou, the famed arts complex in central Paris, mixing his design and gymnastic talents. He was an instant sensation.

Haffner began to pull in as much as $1200 American each day from his street performances, which peaked both his artistic and entrepreneurial interests. He left his fashion design program and enrolled in Les Noctambules École De Cirque, the most prestigious of Paris’ circus academies and shortly thereafter created his own company, Les Farfadais, with his brother Alexandre. As circuses shifted away from more traditional fare and public opinion turned against using wild animals in performance, Haffner was in the right place at the right time as Les Farfadais repeatedly toured Europe. And very soon Haffner found himself at the right place and time again, but this time in a very different way.

In 2015 Les Farfadais landed a spot on that season of Italia’s Got Talent, his home country’s version of the global hit talent show franchise. Appearing with him on the show was Kyle Kier, his then boyfriend, to whom he proposed on live television at the end of one of their performances. This immediately sent shockwaves through the conservative, largely Catholic country, so much so they had to be escorted out of the theater because of the violent threats that some viewers had made. But by the end of the week the video of the proposal had gone viral and sparked a conversation about LGBT rights in Italy. Within the year the Italian government passed a civil union bill.

“It was the most beautiful moment of my life,” says Haffner. “We received death threats, but we also received messages from gay people in Iran, Iraq, China, all saying how much that moment meant to them, living where they do. It was a life changing night for me.”

Haffner and Kier, who is a native of Rochester, N.Y., married in the United States, and their marriage is recognized in the European Union, making touring the continent much easier than before when they had to navigate hostile immigration laws to same-sex couples. Focusing on the positive messages they received, Haffner came up with the idea of AirOtic, a gay-themed show open to all. Now the husband and husband duo are here in Provincetown with their cast mates for the debut summer run.

Appearing on Italian television attracted cruise ship entertainment recruiters leading to the Atlantis cruises, which led to a chance meeting with producer Matt Farber. The manager of such acts as Miss Richfield 1981 and Lee Squared, Farber was on an Atlantis cruise and met Haffner and Kier while off the ship in Barbados. It’s when AirOtic and Farber created a partnership that led them to Provincetown and to completely transform the gym next to Fishermen Hall into a fabulous performance venue. From the high-quality production value to the dangerous fetes to the playful sexuality, AirOtic is a must-see, as was evident by the response from a packed house on eve of the Fourth of July. By the end of the show it’s clear the cast has left everything on the stage, both figuratively and literally.

“It’s a passion,” says Haffner. “It’s dangerous, but you can’t let fear take over or you won’t do it. And it hurts. Many of the things we do hurt. But it’s our passion. You need to be in it 1000 percent if you’re going to do it. That’s what we give every night.”

AirOtic is performed at the gymnasium at Fishermen Hall (the old high school), 12 Winslow St., Provincetown, Tuesday through Saturday at 9 p.m. through August 24. Tickets ($35/$45) are available at the door and online at

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Graphic Artist

Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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