“Another op’nin, another show,” Cole Porter famously wrote in the opening number of the Broadway musical “Kiss Me, Kate.” That’s the life of directors, dancers and choreographers. Laya Barak and Kellen Stancil know it well.
There are just three days to take in their sashaying, sizzling, showstopping work at the Telluride AIDS Benefit fashion shows this Thursday through Saturday.
You might say they are briefly venturing from the concrete canyons of Manhattan (as this reporter’s father used to call them) to the Box Canyon, and back.
Off to New York City this creative duo will go, after the Saturday gala. There’s more work to do: HIV/AIDS is not vanquished, for starters (the social highlight of the winter season, the Telluride AIDS Benefit’s popular galas are fundraisers, first and foremost).
Last year, Barak’s swanky direction of “Broadway Bares” — an “incomparable,” standing-room-only evening of “bodacious Broadway burlesque” with “heart-pounding choreography and scrumptious striptease” from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS — raised $1.9 million for the cause. Barak and choreographer Stancil (who is also a dance captain on the long-running Broadway hit “The Lion King”) are teaming up on “Bares” again this year on the Hammerstein Ballroom stage in New York City. Act quickly, though, and you may be able to catch their sassy production on home snow, in the Telluride Conference Center, where a few tickets remain to the Telluride AIDS Benefit’s Thursday “sneak peak” fashion show, and the Friday gala (alas, the Saturday gala is sold out, as it is every year).
Any practical difference between the “Sneak Peak” performance Thursday and the galas on Friday and Saturday, Barak said, is minimal.
“It’s our first ‘dress’ run,” Thursday night, she said. “We could be pausing, we could be stopping. But at this point, I’m pretty sure it will run just as smoothly as Friday and Saturday, based on where we are in the show.”
Barak and Stancil have worked together since 2014 on “Broadway Bares” (she’s been directing it since 2018). “I brought Kellen along to help” with the TAB shows, Barak said.
Both New Yorkers love Telluride.
“We’re basically locals now!” Barak said with a laugh of these recent, jam-packed days of rehearsals. “I have always loved it” (Barak’s cousin lived in Telluride, and so she knew it before she came here to direct). “Kellen has totally fallen in love with the town,” Barak added. “And he’s not even a skier, or an outdoor snow man.”
Not that you need to be to either of those things to enjoy the fashion shows, or for that matter, the numerous events taking place this week and next.
At the Madeline Hotel and Residences, just for example, LA boutique owner Cameron Silver, the proprietor of Decades, has curated “the ultimate luxury pop-up,” a Lux Collective pop-up, featuring “ski and après chic” pieces by Aztech Mountain, “Leather-and-Vodka-enhanced” Louis Vuitton bags, Lindsey Thornburg Pendleton blanket cloaks, and Canty Boots’ “iconic logo reworked cowboy boots.” And that is not to mention the vintage Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Hermes, Valentino “and other rarified collectibles” from Decades (a portion of sales will benefit TAB). The boutique is open from noon daily through March 4.
There’s a TAB Fashion Week “Brunch with Benes” Saturday morning, and a Fashion After Dark Dance Party Saturday at the Sheridan Opera House. On Monday, the Ah Haa School will host a designer sample sale, featuring pieces “at an extreme discount” from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The sale is open to the public.
Still more fun comes next week: TAB’s gala fashion show on Saturday marks the beginning of Gay Ski Week, a tradition since 2002. This year the event has a new producer: SBG Productions, the organization behind Telluride Brews & Blues Festival, the Telluride Blues Festival and the Durango Blues Train. Visit telluridegayskiweek.com for a complete lineup of events. Head to tellurideaidsbenefit.org to learn more about the Telluride AIDS Benefit and its numerous frontline partners, including the Colorado Health Network and the Children’s Hospital Immunodeficiency Program, which TAB has partnered with since 1994.
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