(my 2(x)istence) | 2(x)ist PORTRAITS: Stéphane Haffner
2(x)ist PORTRAITS is an intimate look inside the lives of our brandfans and how they 2(x)ist. Today, 2(x)istence’s own Jay V. del Rosario and contributing photographer Kevin McDermott meet Stéphane Haffner, a Parisian with no time to clown around as the creator of the fantastical circus-meets-theater performing arts company Les Farfadais.
Stéphane Haffner’s life really is a three-ring circus. But the 33-year-old Parisian juggles his hectic life as Artistic Director of Les Farfadais—a global performing company that blends his talents of gymnastics, artistry, costuming, and storytelling—with aplomb.
“The shows of Farfadais are about creating a dream or fantasy so the audience is transported through the feat of acrobatics and visual beauty,” says Stéphane.
Exactly how Stéphane came to be a master showman is far from the cliché of “running away with the circus” and reads more like something out of that aforementioned dream.
Born in Epinal in the Vosges region of France, Haffner showed a talent for gymnastics at the early age of six. “I asked my parents to sign up for gymnastics because I wanted to become a superhero,” he says. “Being small, it felt like being a gymnast allowed me to do incredible things that other people couldn’t.”
After 11 years of training and competing at a high level, Stéphane suffered an unfortunate injury to his spine, sidelining any future gymnastics career and also leaving him “depressed.”
Rebounding, the Swiss-French-Italian Haffner set off to Paris to study fashion and costume design. There, he found the hustle-and-flow of the metropolis thrilling, but also rather costly. The solution? Stéphane merged his acrobatic skills and knack for costuming and started to perform for street crowds.
“The first day was very hard … but at the end of the day I had a nice surprise—I went home with a backpack full of money and after I counted it, I realized I earned about 500€ [Ed. Note: about $715 USD] for two hours of work!,” he says.
Before long, Stéphane became a street-performance fixture in a prime location: smack in front of tourist-and-pedestrian-heavy Centre George Pompidou, where his show became so popular he started receiving requests for private events and television tapings.
Sensing an opportunity to grow his surprising enterprise, Stéphane enrolled in night classes at a Nanterre-based circus school while simultaneously keeping up his fashion curriculum in the mornings and street-performing in the afternoons. At Nanterre, the young Stéphane excelled at his now-expert “fabric air” (wherein he is suspended from the ceiling by yards of material whilst twisting, turning, and flipping), as well as the trapeze hoops, hand contortion, and other varied circus-worthy feats. But more importantly, he met fellow students who would eventually join his yet-unnamed troupe.
Three years later, Stéphane formed the company he runs today and named it Les Farfadais. In addition to being head of all creative decisions, Stéphane shares a Co-Technical Director title with his own brother Alexandre, an expert in industrial design. Together the brothers combine their collective talents.
“Our shows are a mix of different disciplines that we learned throughout our training, where the stunt is as important as the costume and industrial design,” he says.
And with his Alexandre as a co-captain, Stéphane shares a common muse in their shared childhoods in Switzerland and Italy. “My brother and I are inspired by all the things from our infancy to our youth to our adulthood,” he says.
This includes mythology (which lends heavily to Farfadais’ slant towards the fantastical), and films like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was the catalyst to create a unique wiring system used to stage large-scale aerial “combat” scenes.
“It is important for us to perform on stage all that may seem impossible or completely unreal, ” exclaims Stéphane. “We are real superheroes!”
And there seems to be no kryptonite in sight for Mr. Haffner. Currently, Le Farfadais boasts over 70 artists in the company, which travels around the world to far-flung locales like China, Japan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, and North Africa … not to mention all over their European homebase. Next up? America, who will no doubt react favorably to Stéphane’s passion.
Says Haffner: “I dedicate myself heart and soul into my company, and with my brother we are able to carry on in this fabulous adventure!”
To learn more about Stéphane Haffner’s Les Farfadais, visit the website and follow on Twitter. In his 2(x)ist PORTRAIT by Kevin McDermott, Mr. Haffner wears the SLIQ Brief. Be sure to Like Mr. McDermott’s studio on Facebook and visit his website.
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[PORTRAIT: Kevin McDermott (kevinmcdermott.com) | WORDS: Jay V. del Rosario. Special thanks to 2(x)ist's Alexandre Daniel for translation assistance]