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Meet Joanna Galis of The Royal Underground in Montebello

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joanna Galis.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born and raised in Miami where I trained as a competitive dancer from the age of four. My entire life was centered around becoming a professional dancer. Due to a skiing accident at the age of 19, I was unable to continue perusing that route and redirected my focus solely to teaching. I graduated from Florida International University with a bachelors degree in dance education. I had already been teaching since the age of 15 and it was easy for me to immerse myself into the education field. I started teaching at a studio in Montebello when I first moved to LA from Miami about seven years ago. At the time the studio had never had any type of competitive dance program so I dedicated myself to starting one and training the kids intensely. That was the beginning of this journey that would ultimately lead to THE ROYAL UNDERGROUND.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has definitely been a bumpy road to get to where we are. The kids I work with truly have an incredible work ethic. Their dedication to their craft is inspiring. After about four years of working with them the studio we were a part of closed their doors on us from one day to the next. We returned from a competition in May to a locked door and an email stating the studio was closing. So many parents lost money they’d invested into that season already and I lost my job. All without warning. I decided that I would not let the kids and parents down so I teamed up with one of the girl’s parents and we decided we would keep the kids together and start a new studio. Unfortunately, this would only serve as a temporary solution. Sadly this couple was not trustworthy and would leave us in a similar predicament about a year and a half later.

After the second time of allowing my fate and that of my students and their families to be placed in another’s hands, I decided enough was enough and it was time to take control and never again be in a position for someone to leave me in a vulnerable situation. I turned to someone I knew to be genuine and reliable, a friend and teacher who had already worked with the kids and myself at both studios prior, Ricky Royal. Ricky and I had both had so many negative experiences working for others that we decided it was time to create a new concept for dance education. A studio that held up an expectation for excellence. A place where kids would receive proper pre professional dance education and be exposed to the best quality training available. We wanted to keep our kids together and we new providing a secure and affordable program was imperative. We planned our vision out and opened The Royal Underground in 2018.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
The Royal Underground offers a pre professional dance education program as well as recreational dance classes. Our studio prides itself on celebrating our kids individuality as artists. We want to produce dancers that are well rounded in every aspect. For this reason we uphold a strict code of conduct. We want everyone who comes into The Royal Underground to feel they are being challenged and seen.

I’m most proud of the uniqueness of our dancers. Our kids work like no other. They put in the time and they put in their hearts. They are artists, athletes and storytellers. We strive to make our audience feel something always, and Ricky and myself feel so much pride when they do. We recently attended our first National Championship as TRU and had incredible success. We were honored as two time national champions and received two victory cups at Revolution National Talent Competition in Anaheim. A victory that meant so much to all of us because of the immense obstacles and sacrifices we have all made.

What were you like growing up?
I started dancing at the age of three and immediately fell in love with it. I was always a performer from a young age and loved to be on stage and entertaining. I was a hyper-focused kid. Meaning everything I did I wanted to do as well as I could. Put it this way, I was so focused on dance and school that I still to this day never learned to ride a bike!

Contact Info:

  • Address: 619 w Whittier Blvd
    #200 Montebello CA 90640
  • Website:
  • Phone: (323) 246-1034
  • Email:
  • Instagram: the.royalunderground

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  1. Millinda Sinnreich

    September 18, 2019 at 11:45

    Joni is an amazing teacher and committed to changing the life of young girls and giving them a purpose !!! We are soo proud of you !!

  2. Sache Lennon

    September 18, 2019 at 16:36

    Hi! I would love to gather some more information on who wrote the article and the date it was published. I have a few concerns regarding content being put out into communities with the intention to diminish and bury certain legacies especially here in Montebello where most of the people who migrated to the city recently are not aware of. Where do the boundaries lie when it’s starts to affect local businesses who intended to carry out a voice within the arts especially in East Los Angeles instead of chasing a salary that you would like to receive…. where is the conversation about what you actually envision for these girls and what the path may look like in the future not just a number of plastic garbage sitting on a shelf with a “#1” carved in. This journal entry provides enough information regarding what kind of studio they run in terms of success looks like for them “the studio owners” and what kind of attitude they expect from both dancer and parents. Please be careful with these folk. They irrigated cultural history out of Montebello. They don’t support local businesses but diminish them. FACT: both studio owners opened and operated studios prior, how come this ones taking the cake? What’s so great about it? What’s your “strict code of conduct” if I may? Did you have to pay for this journal entry? Usually magazines/ big platforms provide voices and needed attention for communities seeking it, so when you compensate for attention is it really using your stance in society to help Mexican communities who are facing injustices or is it the amount of dollar signs on a check that will convince you to do more for the needy. What have you done that’s created change or sparked some form of discussion through dance? Dance should be accessible anywhere and everywhere, but it’s hard when you’re charging people a very high amount especially when you decided to gentrify and open a studio in the more project based side of town. Where’s community outreach? Fundraising? Team building? Body Dysmorphia is a real thing and if there is anyone who can teach you how to do it very well, it should come from a starved ballerina/ “ aspiring model/actress” @joannagalis. Your children spend a lot of time with people who obsess over what other people perceive and that is not what dance stands for AT ALL. Its severely disappointing. Especially being a professional performing artist and attempting continuously to destroy the stigma surrounding body image, it’s very difficult when they’re continuously feeding it. I hope this entry was of some perspective.

    • Sache Lennon

      September 18, 2019 at 16:44

      She says that she supports local businesses but the locals can’t even afford her cost.. Stay Woke


      September 20, 2019 at 22:44


      While we appreciate your concerns, they seem greatly misguided.
      This story was intended to bring light to Inspiring stories in East LA. The conversation about what we “actually envision” can be found under the question [We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?]
      You seem to have concern over people empowering young artists… We love all of our local businesses here in Montebello and provide ample support to our community. We chose to do business and build relationships with our community here in Montebello. We just recently donated our time and artistry to the Shops of Montebello.

      You are more than welcome to review our “strict code of conduct” by visiting our website.
      There are many things “great” about our small business.
      This Journal entry was not paid for.
      We’ve created many conversations with our Dance Community through giving back and our artistry in itself.
      You’re absolutely right, dance should be accessible to everyone, everywhere.

      You asked [Where’s community outreach? Fundraising? Team building?] these are things we provide and do all throughout our season… for example we will be apart of HALO Dance4Autisim, an amazing organization and a place where dance helps others. We would love for you to come and see what it’s all about.

      We totally agree with you on “Body Dysmorphia” is huge problem which is why we coach our kids to love and believe in themselves wherever they are at in life.

      We as a team do not obsess over others, we focus on ourselves.

      We are all professional artists with educations spanning over 20 years.
      Feel free to stop by and get to know all of our Staff.

      I hope this response was of some perspective.

  3. Natalia Lopez

    September 21, 2019 at 00:11

    Hello. I am really wondering how this short article about a dance teachers journey got misinterpreted by “Sache Lennon.” It seems like this person has other issues and topics regarding the local community in general that they would like to address. Either that or it sounds like jealousy coming from someone with either no or very minimal dance experience. If I am not mistaken both athletes and dancers are in pretty good shape due to their commitment to the sport and a healthy lifestyle. Strange that someone would make a public statement assuming that this woman is a “starved ballerina”. Anyhow just my outside perspective from reading this article! Not everyone is able to find and pursue their passion during this lifetime. Congratulations to the woman and her business in this article! Love reading personal stories about successful humble entrepreneurs that started from the bottom.

  4. Sahar Madaen

    September 21, 2019 at 01:09

    What a beautiful article! Thank you for highlighting an inspirational woman and her team. Love reading these stories of hidden gems and local businesses in LA. Thank you!

  5. Juana García

    September 21, 2019 at 01:27

    In today’s world it’s difficult for young women to find someone who they can look up to, who they can learn from and who truly cares about there well being. I can whole heartedly say that Joanna Galis and Ricky Royal are both individuals who have been nothing but a blessing and role models to the girls. They have shown nothing but love, respect and dedication to not only our daughters but to us parents. Through out the years the girls have displayed great behavior, excellent grades and a sisterhood with each other. We have seen our daughters grow up to become beautiful dancers with outstanding technique and artistry. The Royal Underground is not only a dance studio. It is a community of parents and teachers who work together to make the girls the best they can be. We are very thankful for all your hard work Joanna and Ricky and we hope God continues to bless our studio.

  6. Jennifer Furtado

    September 21, 2019 at 02:55

    I am at a loss for words, I’m saddened, I’m insulted and I’m utterly confused at the words written by this anonymous person who obviously at some point had a connection with the insanely talented instructors of “The Royal Underground!” My daughter is a former member of the two studios that ultimately failed due to poor business models, dishonesty, lack of management experience and the martyr mentality of philanthropy without the economic stability to sustain others.

    The Royal Underground was not developed with the intention of saving the children of East LA and Montebello. Just like any other small business, it serves a purpose. The purpose is to introduce children to a COMPETITIVE level of dance. The most wonderful thing about the USA is we all have choices. The choice is ultimately a personal and private decision with your family and dancer whether or not they are desiring to dance at this level. Dance is an extremely expensive activity, competitive dance is an extremely focused, determined, disciplined activity with additional cost. One must be financially responsible and determine, if this is indeed something that your family can afford. The writer mentions the instructors asking for a salary. Why is it so mind boggling to expect a certain salary that is well deserved? If I’m providing a service, I expect to be compensated appropriately based on experience and proven outcome.

    Why is the responsibility of discussing MY daughter’s goals, future career, community outreach placed solely on the dance instructors? The instructors are there to help support, enhance and encourage the narrative. They are not the authors, they are the ghost writers as they should be.

    As a small business owner, one should determine what success looks like for themselves, their business and their intended demographic . This in turn helps fuel a successful business. (Business 101). Success is never about the plastic “1st place,” trophy. Success is about all of the obstacles that the owners, the parents and more importantly the dancers had to overcome the past few years. Success is about the blood, sweat, tears, belly laughs, group hugs, high fives and cheers from the audience. The success is that one dancer consumed by fear being able to get through their first solo.

    Body dysmorphia…a topic that far exceeds the knowledge, skill set,education, physical, spiritual and emotional capacity of the writer. When, as an adult is it appropriate to “BULLY” someone regarding their body? There has to be a more mature, approach to this topic? Clearly calling another adult hurtful names is just unacceptable and infantile.

    Everyone has a responsibility in this situation, it is ultimately up to the individuals involved to determine whether or not to live in their truth or to actually be honest and take accountability for their actions. In the end, it’s is solely my responsibility to lead, support, encourage, guide and nurture my dancer.

    “ The Royal Underground,” will continue to be our ghost writer. The only thing to watch out for is the insane amount of talent that their dancers exude. The only thing to watch out for is the dedicated parents that will do anything in hopes to foster their children’s dreams. The only thing to watch out for is…..the promising future of this small studio! Be patient…be forgiving, be open, be respectful, be responsible with your words and actions, BE HONEST, be happy. We all have a purpose in life….your purpose, vision, definition and journey can oppose the owners of this studio and that is the beauty in all of this. FACT: Both instructors owned previous studios, why does this one take the cake? It’s simple…passion, HONESTY, trust, dedication, transparency and unadulterated determination for success of their business and their dancers!

    Please leave politics out of this. The Royal Underground does not have enough power to change the horrible injustices that several minority people have and continue to face.

    Dance is an art form that has many shapes, colors, sounds, movements, fluidities, justices, morals, ethics, textures, tastes and life forms! Dance with these thoughts and just enjoy your journey! It’s ok to disagree….it’s not ok to insult one for not having the same concept of what a dancer, dance style, dance studio, dance studio owner or dance parent should look like, sound like, behave like. It’s 2019….it’s ok to be different! Your definition of dance can be different and the only thing I can do is respect your feelings.

    With that being said, I’m proud to say that my daughter is a member of the National Reigning Champions of “The Royal Underground!”

  7. Onedancemom

    September 21, 2019 at 03:34

    Local dance students are motivated and encouraged to continue to develop their dance technique and strive for perfection under the tutelage of this talented duo made up of Joanna Galis and Ricky Royal. The decision to remain serving in this community where the arts are not always valued is an asset. My daughter has been very fortunate to continue to hone her dance skills as she prepares for a career in the dance world. The dedication and commitment that is required by a serious dance student is fostered by the love provided by this team of dance instructors to each one their students. The life long lessons are priceless. Thank you Joanna and Ricky for believing in our children!

  8. Juana Garcia

    September 21, 2019 at 05:09

    In today’s world it’s difficult for young women to find someone who they can look up to, who they can learn from and who truly cares about there well being. I can whole heartedly say that Joanna Galis and Ricky Royal are both individuals who have been nothing but a blessing and role models to the girls. They have shown nothing but love, respect and dedication to not only our daughters but to us parents. Through out the years the girls have displayed great behavior, excellent grades and a sisterhood with each other. We have seen our daughters grow up to become beautiful dancers with outstanding technique and artistry. The Royal Underground is not only a dance studio. It is a community of parents and teachers who work together to make the girls the best they can be. We are very thankful for all your hard work Joanna and Ricky and we hope God continues to bless our studio.

  9. Sonia Barajas

    September 21, 2019 at 18:06

    Body Dysmorphia : a distinct mental disorder in which a person is preoccupied with an imagined physical defect. Sounds like the one PREOCCUPIED is the anonymous commenter. TRYING to put another person down based on an IMAGINED physical defect. I’ve only been part of TRU for a couple months and I will never look back. Joanna is one to motivate and love each and every girl for who they are. Making them want to grow and be proud of themselves something you can probably take a lesson or two on. Because this world definitely needs more Joanna’s to overcome the “Sache Lennon” now a days.

  10. Mark H.

    September 21, 2019 at 18:43

    The best teachers are those with selfless devotion to the development and success of their students. It’s a testament to the determination of Ms. Galis and her business partner that – in spite of the setbacks they’ve faced – their studio even exists for these students to attend. Our area needs more small businesses like this, those that truly benefit the community by giving young people something positive to do, empowering them to believe in themselves, and enabling them to realize their potential through the arts.

  11. Joselle Galis Hall

    September 21, 2019 at 18:47

    Thank you VoyageLA for profiling my sister Joanna and The Royal Underground! I have seen for myself the inexhaustible enthusiasm and commitment Joanna dedicates to her students. Beyond the technique and artistry, she teaches them drive, discipline and confidence. The training they get here better equips them to succeed at whatever dream they pursue in the future. My sister is a rare teacher — a genuinely caring human being with extraordinary artistic talent. It’s a testament to her that some of her graduates are now coming back as gifted choreographers and teachers in their own right. I can’t wait to see what she and Ricky continue to build with The Royal Underground. I know I’ll be cheering as they, their students and the entire studio enjoy continued success!

  12. OG Dance Dad

    September 21, 2019 at 21:51

    To anyone reading these comments I’d like to give my 2 cents. After being around for over 10 years and witnessing everything unfold I believe I deserve the right to share. I’m a father of one of the young ladies currently dancing at the Royal Underground. I’ve seen these young ladies grow up right in front of my very own eyes and I’m so proud of each and every one of them. Even those who aren’t with the studio anymore. These teachers have given their time, blood, sweat and tears for our girls. Some girls have received opportunities to attend great schools with great dance programs. These are gifts that we should be grateful for. I have no hate in my heart, I have nothing negative to say about anyone. All I can say is what I believe is real and honest. Ricky and Joanna, I’ve trusted in you to help teach my daughter the arts of dance and how to compete at the highest levels. So far you haven’t let me down. As a matter of fact you have exceeded my expectations and have become mentors and role models. You are literally family and I trust you with my very own child. I cannot thank you enough. My daughter has grown to learn how to work hard, overcome obstacles, and have love in her heart for her sisters. Don’t listen to any negativity and keep on with your path. You have a great thing going on at The Royal Underground and I know that your visions and dreams will come true.

  13. DanceLife

    September 21, 2019 at 23:36

    Joanna Galis<3 enough said! (thats a heart symbol by the way)

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