Seventh Annual Gran Gala Dominicana celebrates Dominican Republic Independence Day


JOSE CARDENAS: LET'S TALK ABOUT DOMINICAN INDEPENDENCE DAY. THIS WAS INDEPENDENCE FROM HAITI.

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: FROM HAITI BELIEVE IT OR NOT. THE ISLAND WAS INVADED BY THE HAITIANS AT THAT TIME. SO WE HAVE OUR FOUNDING FATHERS, IT WAS THREE OF THEM. THAT PUT TOGETHER A GREAT TEAM AND FOUGHT FOR THE INDEPENDENCE FOR THE ISLAND. AT LEAST HALF OF THE ISLAND.

JOSE CARDENAS: HOW BIG IS THE DOMINICAN COMMUNITY HERE IN PHOENIX?

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: WE HAVE QUITE A FEW THOUSAND HERE. I HAVE BEEN HERE SINCE 1986 AND I CAN TELL YOU THAT I WAS PROBABLY THE ONLY DOMINICAN WOMAN HERE AT THE TIME. SINCE WE HAD THE SPRING TRAINING AND WE HAVE A LOT OF THE BALL PLAYERS COMING TO THE DIFFERENT TEAMS A LOT OF THEM END UP STAYING HERE AND THEY LIKE THE STATE AND THAT IS HOW THE POPULATION OF THE DOMINICAN STARTED TO GROW.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND DOMINICAN REPUBLIC IS FAMOUS FOR ITS PRODUCTION OF PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYERS.

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: YES, YES.

JOSE CARDENAS: LET'S TALK ABOUT THE EVENT ITSELF. WHERE IS IT GONNA TAKE PLACE AND WHAT KINDS OF ACTIVITIES?

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: THE EVENT TAKES PLACE AT THE THEATERS WHICH IS LOCATED 1702 EAST NORTHERN. IT IS OUR 7TH ANNUAL. WE DECIDED TO PUT TOGETHER THAT EVENT TO BRING AWARENESS OF DIFFERENT CULTURE HERE IN ARIZONA. AGAIN, WHEN I FIRST CAME IN 1986, I WAS BORN IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND RAISED IN NEW YORK CITY SO IT WAS DOUBLE SHOCK ALL THE WAY AROUND. COMING TO ARIZONA, IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT. SO, I DECIDED TO OPEN A DANCE STUDIO AND TO TEACH THE LESSONS OF SALSA AND MERENGUE AND BACHATA AND THAT ATTRACTED A LOT OF PEOPLE NOT ONLY FROM THE MEXICAN COMMUNITY BUT AS WEL LFROM THE AMERICAN COMMUNITY.

JOSE CARDENAS: A BIG PORTION OF THE EVENT CENTERS AROUND DANCE?

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: YES, DANCE. WE HAVE DANCE, WE HAVE DINNER. WE HAVE DOMINICAN CUISINE THAT WE INTRODUCE TO OUR GUEST AND SO THEY GET TO SEE DIFFERENT DANCE PERFORMANCES. NOT ONLY FROM DOMINICAN REPUBLIC BUT THEN WE HAVE FIESTA MEXICANA DANCE COMPANY WHO IS GOING TO BE THERE. THEN WE HAVE A COLUMBIAN GROUP THAT IS ALSO GOING TO BE REPRESENTING COLOMBIA. SO IT IS VERY, VERY DIVERSE.

JOSE CARDENAS: VERY LATIN AMERICAN.

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: VERY LATIN AMERICAN BUT THE LAST YEARS WE HAVE GUESTS FROM, YOU KNOW, FRENCH, RUSSIA, WE HAVE AMERICA. WE HAVE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT ARE HUNGRY TO LEARN ABOUT OUR CULTURE AND THEY GO AND JOIN THOSE AND ENJOY THEMSELVES.

JOSE CARDENAS: HOW BIG OF A CROWD DO YOU TYPICALLY GET?

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: THERE IS TIMES WE GET ANYWHERE FROM 200-400. DEPENDING ON THE YEAR WHEN WE PUT IT TOGETHER AND THE LOCATION. A LOT OF TIMES, YOU KNOW, IT DEPENDS ON HOW MUCH PUBLICITY WE GET AND WE THANK YOU FOR HAVING US HERE TODAY SO HOPEFULLY WE WILL GET SOME NEW FACES. IT IS ABOUT NO LESS THAN 200 PEOPLE.

JOSE CARDENAS: YOU HAVE THIS CELEBRATION THAT FOCUSES ON DOMINICAN INDEPENDENCE BUT THIS IS NOT THE ONLY THING YOU DO THROUGHOUT THE YEAR TO PROMOTE THE CULTURE OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND OTHER LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES.

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: NO, I HAVE A DANCE STUDIO. THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, I TEACH LATIN LESSONS IN DIFFERENT PART OF THE VALLEY AND AT RESTAURANTS AND WHEREVER THEY HIRE ME TO GO AS WELL AS THE DANCE STUDIO. I END UP WORKING WITH A LOT OF KIDS A LOT OF INNER CITY KIDS AND LOW-INCOME FAMILIES AND I USE MY STUDIO AS A PLACE FOR THEM TO FIND SAFETY AND FIND COMFORT IN MUSIC AND DANCING. I HAVE A LOT OF KIDS WHO HAVE BEEN VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, BULLYING, AND PARENTS WHO HAVE BEEN IN JAIL DUE TO DRUGS SO THE GRAND PARENTS ARE RAISING THEM, SO WE HAVE ORGANIZATIONS THAT CALL ME AND SAY WE HAVE A COUPLE OF KIDS CAN YOU TAKE THEM? SO WE DO THIS GANGA LA DOMINICANA TO RAISE SOME FUNDS. WHEN WE DO THE SUMMER PROGRAM DURING THE MONTH OF JUNE AND JULY. FIVE WEEKS PROGRAM. WE GET A LOT OF KIDS THAT NEED THAT SUPPORT AND THE EXTRA STIMULATION FOR THEM TO FEEL THEY ARE IMPORTANT AND FEEL HAPPY AGAIN. I HAVE TWO CHILDREN. I HAVE SOMEONE THAT CALLED ME LAST WEEK WITH TWO KIDS AGES 5 AND 8 LOST THEIR MOM 35-YEAR OLD AND SOMEONE CALLED ME CAN YOU TAKE THEM FOR THE SUMMER THEY GOING TO NEED IT. SO I SAID SURE OF COURSE.

JOSE CARDENAS: WHAT DOES MEAN WHEN YOU TAKE THEM FOR THE SUMMER? THEY ARE IN CLASSES IN YOUR PROGRAM AND WHAT DO THOSE CLASSES CONSIST OF?

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: THE CLASSES ARE MONDAY-THURSDAY FROM 10:00-2:00 SO THEY’RE THERE WITH ME. SO THE PARENTS GO TO WORK AND SO INSTEAD OF GOING TO A DAY CARE OR BABYSITTER I TAKE THEM IN AND WE HAVE DIFFERENT DANCE COREOGRAPHERS THAT COME IN TEACHING THEM DIFFERENT DANCES. FROM HIP HOP, LATIN SO IT HELPS THEM DEVELOP THAT PERSONALITY A LOT OF THEM HAVE LOST DUE TO SOME THROUGH SOME PAIN OR HARDSHIP IN LIFE.

JOSE CARDENAS: THE FOCUS IS ON DANCE?

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: THE FOCUS IS ON DANCE, YES.

JOSE CARDENAS: IS IT PRINCIPALLY THE HISPANIC COMMUNITY YOU SERVE?

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: NO, SIR. I AM OPEN TO EVERYONE. I HAVE KIDS WHO ARE AN ASIAN. I HAVE KIDS WHO ARE YOU KNOW REGULAR AMERICAN. BUT FOR THE MOST PART I DO GET A LOT OF LATIN KIDS.

JOSE CARDENAS: AND THE COST OF THE PROGRAM ARE COVERED BY THE MONEY YOU RAISE AT THE GALA AND OTHER EVENTS?

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: YES, WE HAVE SCHOLARSHIP THAT WE GIVE TO SOME OF THE CHILDREN FAMILIES WITH FIVE KIDS AND THEY CAN ONLY AFFORD TO PAY FOR ONE SO I WILL GIVE THE SCHOLARSHIP TO THE REST OF THE CHILDREN CAUSE I DON’T WANT ONE CHILD TO JUST ENJOY THE PROGRAM AND THE REST OF THE CHILDREN TO STAY AT HOME. I ALSO RAISE FUNDS TO TAKE THEM ON A FIELD TRIP. WE HAVE TAKEN THEM TO LAS VEGAS TO SEE THE MICHAEL JACKSON SHOW AND THE LOVE OF THE BEETLES. LAST YEAR WE TOOK THEM TO SEE THE JABAWOKEES. SO WE HAVE LOCAL SPONSORS WHO GIVE US -- EITHER DONATE THE MONEY OR DONATE THE TICKET FOR ME TO TAKE THE CHILDREN TO LAS VEGAS FOR A DAY OR TWO. THERE WAS ANOTHER TIME I TOOK THEM TO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. A LOT OF THESE CHILDREN HAS NEVER BEEN OUTSIDE OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA. ONE OF THE GIRLS BASICALLY TOLD ME THANK YOU BECAUSE SHE HAD NEVER SEEN THE OCEAN. I TOOK HER TO THE BEACH AND SHE SAID IT WAS HER FIRST TIME SHE WAS ABLE TO BE OUT OF THE STATE OF ARIZONA, GO TO CALIFORNIA, AND ACTUALLY SEE THE OCEAN.

JOSE CARDENAS: IF PEOPLE ARE INTEREST IN GETTING INVOLVED IN YOUR ORGANIZATION EITHER TO VOLUNTEER OR MAKE A DONATION HOW DO THEY DO THAT?

THEY CAN CONTACT ME. MY NUMBER, IF IT’S OKAY TO GIVE MY NUMBER 602-350-0268.

JOSE CARDENAS: ANYTHING COMING BESIDES THE GALA? IS THERE SOMETHING THATWE CAN MENTION HERE ON THE SHOW?

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: AFTER THE GALA, I AM GOING TO TAKE A BREAK AND THEN START GETTING READY FOR THE SUMMER PROGRAM THAT STARTS THE FIRST WEEK OF JUNE.

JOSE CARDENAS: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR COMING ON "HORIZONTE" TO TALK ABOUT THE PROGRAMS AND GOOD LUCK WITH THE GALA. HAVE FUN.

DENISE CEBALLOS VINER: THANK YOU SO MUCH.

VIDEO: HERE AT "HORIZONTE" WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU. IF YOU HAVE COMMENTS, STORY IDEAS OR QUESTIONS E-MAIL US AT [email protected]

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.

 

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Denise Ceballos Viner: Event Organizer, Gran Gala Dominicana

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