Aspen Cares theatrical fashion show, benefitting mental and sexual health, returns for fifth year
The Aspen Times
Aspen Cares co-founder Katy Parnello instructed a studio full of aspiring performers to dance “with the intention that you want to set someone on fire” Wednesday afternoon at the Aspen Club.
“Think you’re like a super hero with laser eyes,” Parnello said to the 20 to 30 young locals hoping to score a spot in Aspen Cares fifth annual theatrical fashion show this year.
The theatrical fashion show is a 60 minute, high-energy performance that is choreographed down to the second, Aspen Cares co-founder Ramona Bruland said.
The show also features several modeling walk sequences along with “characters who carry story lines about our beneficiaries — people struggling with sexual and mental-health issues,” Bruland said.
Aspen Cares primary beneficiary this year is the Aspen Hope Center, which is a local mental health outreach program that works to decrease the stigma of mental illness and provide care to those in need.
The group’s proceeds also will go toward two sexual health beneficiaries — WestCAP, a community-based care and prevention service center for HIV-positive individuals, and the HIV clinic at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.
When Bruland and Parnello started Aspen Cares five years ago, they worked to benefit AIDS but transitioned their focus to mental and sexual health as the two became more integrated into the community, Parnello said.
“Because that is something this community really desperately needs,” Parnello said. “Funding for our mental-health resources.”
About 65 local volunteers — some who boast extensive dance, modeling, and theater backgrounds, and others who have never been on stage — audition for 35 spots, Bruland said.
The “models,” as Bruland referred to the show’s performers, undergo a four-week model training camp where they learn various walk sequences.
“We work with each individual to bring out their unique personality and confidence through our rehearsal process and model training camp,” Parnello said.
Bruland said the confidence instilled in the program’s volunteers is one of the best parts about the event.
“We see some people just blossom,” Bruland said. “Even the most awkward and shy people will come in, and then after a month they are the sexiest thing and you just can’t take your eyes off them.”
Volunteer performers say another major benefit to partaking in Aspen Cares theatrical fashion show is the opportunity to meet new people.
“I’ve been here over 10 years now, and I love that you can meet people you’ve never met before,” Aspen Cares performer Erin Heintz said. “It’s the community coming together.”
Carbondale resident Katie Alderson had such a positive experience performing in last year’s show that not even a torn shoulder could keep her away from auditioning this year.
Alderson said volunteering in Aspen Cares theatrical fashion show last year was “the best thing she did all year.”
“It was the most fun, and the people I met were just Aspen’s rockstars,” Alderson said. “It just challenged me and made me the happiest I’ve been in this valley.”
The Aspen Cares Benefit Fashion Show will take place March 25 at Belly Up Aspen.
Tickets will be available at Belly Up Aspen, ranging from $25 for general admission to $2,000 for VIP tables.
Aspen Hope Center also will host a sneak peak of the show and cocktail party March 9 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Caribou Club.
The event will include a silent auction, an in-room display of auction items, online and mobile bidding options and models presenting donated fashions.
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