Love in balance at the circus

R to L: Devin from Cirque du Soleil’s OVO and his partner, Davide.

Timothy Rawles, February 2020 Issue.

Some self-proclaimed aesthetes may not find the circus an apt venue for fine art, but even they can appreciate all the flashy details and visual style that goes into it, especially something as vibrant as any one of the glossy Cirque de Soleil brands.

But for Devin De Bianchi the circus wasn’t just a place to go for a night of entertainment, it was his life. He grew up in a traditional one, performing with his family for many years until the talent scouts came calling from Cirque de Soleil’s OVO, a high-energy production coming to Phoenix in late February.

Unlike the old-fashioned Italian circus, he was used to, OVO pushed the 26-year-old’s limits from body to mind. As a gay man, his new role would also open communications with his family especially after he’d told them he found the love of his life.

He might argue that the love of his life is the circus. After all his family was always there and if the stories are true, a well-traveled troupe is an extension of that. He wasn’t sure where he fit in, he thought it was gymnastics, but his parents weren’t convinced.

“At the age of eight and nine they say that maybe I would be better as a hand balancer instead of other things,” Devin says in perfect English, but heavy Italian accent. “So, I said, yeah why not? I like hand balancing. And then I started specializing myself in that profession. Then at the age of ten, I started performing for six minutes in front of an audience for the first time.”

From there Devin says he had many jobs. Whether it was with his family or working for other shows or on board a luxury ocean liner. Cirque de Soleil was just a pipe dream because he was lacking in self-confidence even though his friends kept pushing him to audition and praised his gifts.

“I always told them, oh it’s very hard to enter, it’s very difficult and I don’t think I have that potential to be an artist for Cirque de Soleil,” he says, expressing that his career was fine at the time and if they never called it wasn’t the end of the world. 

“And then one day I was going to bed and checked my email box as I do every night and then I see like an email from a talent scout of Cirque de Soleil which was saying, ‘oh we saw your video, we are really interested to put you in the cast we need in the show OVO, to replace an artist.’ And I was like sure,” he sent them videos of his work, but he didn’t hear back right away. “After two days they said can you send me something more about you,” the scouts liked what they saw, he says, and asked him to do an online casting which is basically a video audition through email.

Devin was sent a choreography routine from Cirque which he had to learn and record. He learned it in two days and hit reply. He worried about what they thought, “I was really stressing and everything,” until he got the call he had been waiting for his whole professional life, he got the job.

But there was a catch. He had met his partner Davide, and not only would the news change Devin’s life it would most certainly change Davide’s. And this would be the second time Devin would talk to his parents about being gay. The first time was in his youth while he was still performing in the traditional circus.

His family was a close one, there was no hatred or judgment. Like all good families they took care of each other, however, there was a closet and it wasn’t until the age of 16, after falling in love with another guy, did Devin venture out of it. It was a scary move.   

“After that my parents were like, for a few weeks they were kind of, not angry with me, not disappointed with me, but they just need to realize the situation,” he gave them space to do that. The position was a bit uncomfortable at the time because of some of the people they were working with.

His mother and father thought about it and told him they loved him. His mother had a favor to ask though out of regard to his gentle father. They asked Devin to hide it for a while, “because my father is really not a strong person and he’s a really cute, cute father I have,” he says. “And my mother tell me out of respect for your father, can you do your stuff but not telling everybody right now because people can go to your father and kid him like, oh your son is gay and then your father is not strong enough to answer to these bad people.”

For the next few years Devin honored that request. But as people do, they talk and since the handsome performer was not seen mingling with any girls romantically the rumors started. He decided to quit hiding after he made a trip to Rome in 2016 where he met his fiancé Davide.

Davide was working in clothing stores in Rome. Devin was there for a performance. Up until that time dating wasn’t really a part of Devin’s life only because those he was interested in were skeptical of his travel schedule. They told him they weren’t interested in someone who moved a lot.

“I was like, ‘okay.’ One day I will meet the right one, it will be when this person would like to follow my kind of lifestyle because I don’t want to change my lifestyle for somebody.”

It was soon after he made this promise that he met Davide who surprisingly liked what Devin did for work. So much so Devin taught him how to perform aerial art using straps.

But there was still that phone call he had to make to his parents to tell them he wasn’t hiding anymore, even to protect his dad. 

He told them that he really loved Davide and he would like to bring him to Italy to live with him and the circus, to show people the real Devin. His parents agreed. Although they lived in two different houses for a while, Devin and Davide were together.

“So, after that it was no problem and people were seeing me.” Ultimately, he says the circus is big–but at the same time–small community. “So, if a gay comes out everybody knows already. So, me at that point I was one of the ones who had courage to say, I’m gay and I’m living in circus.”

Eventually, people praised Devin for his courage, they let him know it. They didn’t focus on his relationship with Davide, but who he is as a person, as an artist.

Overall, OVO is the story of diversity and acceptance too. Taking place in the insect world where the egg of a foreigner is introduced into a traditional community. The show is about movement more than dancing and as a hand balancer, Devin takes on the role of the ever-present dragonfly.

Through it all, Devin can see some similarities in the tale he tells on stage every night. His life may not be that of a ladybug or cricket or any of the other colorful insects he performs next to, but he is certain the narrative is relatable to all. “It’s quite the story that can be for everybody, not just for me personally, like the diversity between people right?” he asks. “And always celebrate love no matter from who you came from or for who you are, celebrating love between people, the same love. That’s a bit of the story of the show — kind of.”

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