The Seventh Annual Gran Gala Dominicana, featuring dancing, a cocktail reception, dinner and awards ceremony, will take place on Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Cedar’s Hall.
The Dominican Republic declared its independence from Haiti on Feb. 27, 1844. Denise Ceballos Viner, event organizer of the Gran Gala Dominicana, came to Arizona in 1986. She says she was probably the only Dominican woman in the state at the time. The Dominican population in Arizona grew as baseball players from the Dominican Republic enjoyed the state and decided to stay. Viner says the Dominican population in Arizona is now in the thousands.
Viner opened the Bella Q Dance Studio when she came to Arizona and began to miss her native country. She mainly teaches Latin dances, but there’s a variety of other styles she offers. The event is used to raise funds to invite low-income kids into her studio. The event is also used to bring awareness to bullying, sex trafficking and domestic violence.
“I help them find comfort and safety in music and dancing,” Viner says. “The classes are Monday through Friday, 12 to 4 p.m. Instead of a daycare or babysitter, I teach them different dances. It helps them develop that personality that they may have lost through pain.”
During the summer, the studio offers a five-week program for kids ages 5 to 17. Scholarships are available for students who can’t afford the program.
This year’s gala will feature performances by local folklore groups, such as Ballet Folkrórico Fiesta Mexicana, Colombia Vive, and Bella Q Eztreyaz, a Dominican menu and six Dominican public speakers who will talk about their work in the community.
More information on the gala can be found here.