Our Team

Our Team

Rika Vermeulen

Dance Pianist


Rika was trained as a concert pianist and accompanist at the Performing Arts Department of the (then) Technikon Pretoria. Starting in 1984, she worked as a dance pianist for the Technikon Dance Department playing for ballet, Spanish, and tap classes and performances. She then joined the State Theatre Ballet Company, State Theatre Contemporary Dance Company and the State Theatre Ballet School and has worked with several international choreographers and teachers like Alvin Ailey. From 2000 Rika worked intermittently for the Cape Town City Ballet as class pianist. She has gathered extensive experience as pianist for RAD, Cecchetti and Vaganova dance training methods in class, examinations and summer/winter schools. Since getting involved in Dance for Parkinson’s South Africa (DFPSA) in 2017 Rika has researched and compiled music for DFPSA classes. Her research includes the neurological effects of music on patients with Parkinson’s and dementia. Rika has built a 36-year career in the South African theatre industry and runs her own production company, Vissi D’Arte. She is also founder and director of the Klein Libertas Theatre Choir.

Dr. Kate Wells

Teachers Rep


Kate Wells (Ph.D.) is a retired professor from Durban University of Technology. In 1998 she began the Siyazama Project, a craft and HIV/AIDS health-based education and women’s economic development project, headquartered in KwaZulu-Natal. In 2016, Kate received the prestigious “Living Legend Award” in Durban which recognises excellence in community engagement in South Africa. Her attention is now centred on Arts and Medicine theory and practice, in a range of settings, since attending two programmes through the University of Florida and Shands Medical Hospital. Kate completed the Dance for Parkinson’s SA training in 2018 and is an engaged supporter of the programme as it grows in South Africa.

Ruth Smith

Media & Communications Consultant | Photographer | Social Media Manager


Ruth grew up in Kensington, Cape Town and spent her childhood in the dance studio. After ending her pursuit of a career as a dancer, she picked up a camera in 2009 and being mostly self-taught, began a freelance photography business. For ten years, she balanced a full-time job with her photographic passion working at an advertising agency as a copywriter, proofreader, social media manager, in-house photographer, and assistant traffic manager. She’s worked with many local dance companies and independent artists. Her work in advertising opened her eyes to how she could help the South African arts industry and expanded her services to not just photography but also to videography, content creation, social media management, and website design. She’s passionate about helping bring to life the vision of small companies and individual artists who don’t have massive budgets. Her work with DFPSA began in 2017 when she photographed her parents in a DFPSA class and in 2019, was appointed as the Media and Communications Consultant.

Julie Symmonds

DFPSA Founder and Chief Executive Officer


Julie holds a Bachelor of Music Honours, specialising in Dance from the University of Cape Town. In 2015 she attended the Dance for PD® Introductory Teacher’s Course in New York – the first South African to complete this training – and in February 2016, she presented the very first Dance for Parkinson’s South Africa (DFPSA) class at the Playhouse Theatre in Somerset West. In 2017, she completed the Dance for PD® Advanced Training and Certification Programme – at the time one of only six people in the world to do so – and is qualified to train others in the Dance for PD® methods. Together with fellow ballet teacher Carmen Davidson, they launched the company Dance for Parkinson’s S.A Pty ( Ltd). Whilst still actively involved in DFPSA and available for yearly teacher training, as of 2019, she and her family reside in Scotland where she teaches in the Dance Health and Wellbeing programmes at Scottish Ballet.