Meet the Team


Anne-Marie Smalldon

Artistic Director, Combination Dance

Anne-Marie trained at The Northern Ballet School and London Contemporary Dance School, she joined Combination Dance as the Artistic Director in 2001. Her work has since received a number of commissions and awards including a successful 2018/19 project for The Centenary of Suffrage supported by The National Archives & Victoria Business Improvement District: 100nehundred

Other projects have contributed to Richmond’s WW1 Centenary Commemoration, Big Dance 2008-2016 (including a special 2012 commission), Open Rehearsal & “Look Up” commissions for HighSpeed1, Richmond’s Royal Jubilee Celebrations, projects for English National Ballet & events at Hampton Court Palace. Through this, Combination Dance has been featured in the press, on European ITV, Channel 4 & BBC TV news & broadcast with Sky Arts.

Combination Dance’s vision is one where the people of London and beyond are positively engaging with dance as part of their lives, enjoying its physical, psychological, creative, social, cultural and specific health benefits as individuals and communities.

Combination Dance has a track record for making dance and science inspired projects since 2013 working alongside the current team as well as other organisations and venues including The Science Museum, Imperial Festival, The National Physical Laboratory, The Centre of the Cell, Manchester Science Festival and Cancer Research UK.

Combination Dance Company is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee.

Examples of past work

Dance & Science collaborations


On location promenade work at St Pancras International

Video 1
Video 2


Karen Palmer

Project Producer | Director, Access Dance

Karen Palmer BA (Hons) Dance Ed AISTD(CDE) RAD(RTS)(TDIP) has danced since the age of 4 years old, so has been involved in the dance industry most of her life. After training at Northern Ballet School, achieving qualifications in both performance and teaching areas of dance, Karen went on to dance professionally in Italy and Germany where she gained invaluable performance experience.

Since then she has taught dance in both the public and private sector for a number of years, adding to her qualifications along the way. Karen undertook a BA (hons) degree in Dance Education with the Royal Academy of Dance. This degree has led to the development of Access Dance, a Social Enterprise committed to providing young people with access to high quality dance activities and performance experiences they might not otherwise have. Karen is passionate about passing on her knowledge and experience to allow everyone the opportunity to access and enjoy dance to the full. Karen is currently undertaking a MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban.


Lucy Lintott

MND patient | Campaigner

Lucy is an MND (Motor Neurone Disease) patient and a campaigner for the MND Association, who has kindly offered to help us with our project.

Read more on her website:

Lucy is currently involved in a 2nd documentary with the BBC.


Rickie Patani

Physician Scientist

Professor Rickie Patani is a physician scientist with over a decade of direct experience working on human induced pluripotent stem cell models of neurodegeneration. Rickie obtained his BSc (in Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience) and MBBS from Imperial College London in 2004. He gained MRCP in 2007 and a PhD in Human Stem Cell Neurobiology from Cambridge University in 2011, funded by a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellowship. While completing his higher clinical training in Neurology, he was awarded a Wellcome Trust Clinician Scientist Fellowship and started his research group at UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology in 2013. Rickie gained MRCP (Neurology) in 2015 and was appointed Honorary Consultant Neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square in 2017. Rickie’s lab moved to the Francis Crick Institute in 2017, where they continue to work primarily on human induced pluripotent stem cell models of neurodegeneration, with particular focus on the themes of RNA metabolism and cellular autonomy. In 2018, Rickie was elected Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and secured an MRC Senior Clinical Fellowship. Rickie was promoted to Associate Professor in 2018 and subsequently full Professor in 2019. The Patani Lab have a diverse portfolio of public engagement activities (see the group’s twitter account @PataniLab for more information).

Lab facility:

We study diseases of the nervous system, focusing on motor neuron disease (ALS) and dementia. In ALS, patients lose the ability to move, eat, speak and ultimately breathe. ALS is untreatable because we do not understand the underlying cause(s) of disease. In order to understand disease mechanisms, we use human stem cells generated from real patients. With over a decade of experience using this technology, we can now transform stem cells from patients into human nerve cells and, separately, their support cells (called glia). This approach allows us to determine the sequence of disease-related events within particular cell types. Our overarching goal is to identify precisely what goes wrong, when this begins and in which cell type. We specifically focus on how the following three factors contribute to nerve cell death in ALS:

  • Messages called RNAs, which are made from our DNA blueprint
  • Astrocytes, which are star-shaped cells that normally support nerve cells
  • Ageing, which is the biggest risk factor for many neurodegenerative diseases including ALS

The more we understand about human neurological diseases using this approach, the more we will be able to therapeutically target underlying disease mechanisms. We ultimately wish to use this new information to benefit patients with untreatable neurological diseases.


Emma Hodson-Tole

Reader in Neuromusculoskeletal Integration

Dr. Emma Hodson-Tole is Reader in Neuromusculoskeletal Integration at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Her research work involves the development of tools to study human muscle and nerve systems, which can be applied to provide new understanding of healthy function and support diagnosis and monitoring of different nerve and muscle diseases. An example of her current work is the development of ultrasound imaging as a non-invasive means of detecting involuntary patterns of muscle activity, for more sensitive diagnosis and monitoring of diseases such as Motor Neurone Disease. She has an established track record of developing and delivering a range of public engagement activities, at events such as Manchester Science Festival, which have been supported from sources such as The Physiological Society and recognised with a Public Engagement Champions award from MMU.

Emma’s web-page can be found here.


Helen Devine

Neurologist in training

Helen Devine studied Medicine at Oxford University and is a Neurologist in training. She secured an MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship to fund her PhD and now works at the Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, University College London. Helen is currently doing research using hiPSCs to study spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy, which is also known as Kennedy’s Disease. This is a rare motor neuron disease and there is no cure. This leads to weakness in patients’ arms, legs and face muscles. Most research in SBMA has been undertaken in cell and animal models of SBMA. These studies have revealed several possible pathways that may be involved in motor neuron degeneration but it is not clear how relevant these results are to the human disease. Helen uses motor neurons grown from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) which have been made from patients skin cells to try and find out how and why motor nerves die in this disease. Her aim is to try and discover what causes this disease and to use these insights to treat the cells to see if she can restore their proper function.


Phillip Smethurst

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Phillip is currently a post-doctoral researcher in Dr Rickie Patani’s lab based at the Francis Crick Institute working on building cellular models of ALS using protein aggregation. He is also a musician and composer of contemporary classical music for the piano in his spare time.

Short videos explaining Phillip’s research can be found here:

His music can be found here

Videos using his music can be found here:


Mandy Spencer

Research Information Coordinator | MND Association

Mandy Spencer is a Research Information Coordinator at the Motor Neurone Disease Association. The MND Association is the largest national charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland focused on MND care, research and campaigning.

The charity funds and promotes research that leads to new understanding and treatments and brings us closer to a cure. Mandy is part of the team that disseminates research news to people living with and affected by this devasting neurological disease in a way that is easy to access and understand. This includes writing blog articles, newsletters, information sheets and online content.

Mandy is also organising the first MND EnCouRage UK event which is aimed at bringing together early career researchers and people living with and affected by MND to foster collaboration and long-lasting relationships. She will also be launching the MND Community Research Advisory Network to further this collaboration and involve the MND community in the work of the Research Information team.

Mandy became involved in the Star Cells project as team members previously participated in the Action Potential project. She feels it is an exciting and innovative way to improve understanding of MND research and raise awareness of this rare disease. A greater public awareness of MND allows us to support people with MND to ensure that their needs and the needs of those who care for them are recognised and addressed.


Scott Palmer

Director of Carbon IT Services Ltd. | Photographer

Scott is a Director of Carbon IT Services Ltd., a technology and consultancy company which adopts a benevolent, human approach to delivering IT solutions.

Carbon IT Services Ltd. is Combination Dance’s technology partner and is responsible for delivering most of the technology requirements for the Star Cells project including this website. 

Scott also owns Scott David Photography, whose portfolio primarily focuses on performing arts, portrait and fine art photography. Scott is a graduate of The Photography Institute and has long had a passion for photography sparked from using his Grandfather’s cameras and darkroom at a young age.


Luke Toddfrey

Videographer | Photographer

Luke uses video, photography and motion graphics to create narrative-driven digital content for well-known brands.

Working through his production company, TODDCS, Luke has over fifteen years of experience bringing performance to audiences. He produces multi-camera live events, conducts interviews and creates project-focused content for a multitude of industries. His strategies have also been implemented by venues, marketing and PR companies to brand and theme events and create experiences.

Luke’s work has been broadcast on the BBC, MTV and featured in publications such as Time Out and The Times. He loves working with creative people and takes his camera everywhere he goes.


Mike Lees

Costume, Production, Set Designer and Stylist

Mike Lees is an award winning, London based Costume, Production, Set Designer and stylist working across Musicals, Straight Theatre, Ballet, Opera and Television.

With over a decade of experience on a vast and eclectic mix of projects, Mike has built up a successful reputation as a Designer with an outstanding passion and eye for detail. As well as designing, Mike can offer a combined wardrobe and make-up service, as well as being an accomplished scenic artist, stage manager and model maker.


Ben Clarke

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Ben is a post-doctoral researcher in the Patani Lab interested in astrocytes – the cells that surround neurons, providing them with support and protecting them from damage. For reasons we don’t fully understand, astrocytes in ALS patients are unable to support motor neurons and actually release chemicals that contribute towards motor neuron death.

Ben make astrocytes from ALS patients skin cells that have been turned into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The cells are then stressed out in a dish and the astrocytes made from ALS patients are compared with those from healthy people. From these experiments they hope to find the molecular abnormalities that occur in ALS patient astrocytes, so that in future drugs can be designed to fix them.



Choreographer | Dancer

Jeffrey Felicisimo first started dancing at the age of 5 years old. His uncle first entered him into a dance competition and he came 2nd and it has been the influential foundation to inspire his dance career. Since then, Jeffrey hasn’t stopped! From an early age, Jeffrey has attended street dance classes in south and east London and has never looked back. With his immensely positive energy and friendly out-going attitude Jeffrey’s vibrant character shines through his work, whether working with a team or performing on stage.

Jeffrey Felicisimo is the co- founder of the London based dance crew Animaineax and has worked with dance companies such as Zoonation (Into The Hoods) BoyBlueEnt (Pied Piper and The Five) and now part of a successful dance company called Flawless. His determination and enthusiasm attitude, provides this talented dancer/choreographer with a special edge. He has also has appeared on stage with some leading international artists including Rita Ora, Little Mix, Taio Cruz, Jojo, JLS, Cherly Cole, Harvey,  NDubz, Tulisa and has participated on shows such as Britians Got Talent, XFactor to name a few. He has appeared In major festivals such as Glastonbury,  VFestival &  Party in the park and is currently  working with Aston Merrygold and works as a teacher at Cambridge Bodyworks.


Vince Virr


Vince is from Bradford and has performed in more than fifty dance productions in twenty two countries across six continents since graduating from Northern School of Contemporary Dance and LABAN’s Transitions Dance Company.

His own choreographic work has been performed in Scotland, France and China including a new production, Doushui, with the Beijing Acrobatic Troupe and Arts Space for Kids (A.S.K., China). He is currently performing as an aerialist and performer at the Bregenz Opera Festival (Austria) and is collaborating on a new work for young audiences with Teatro Nino Proletario (Chile) to premiere later this year.

Vince loves working across cultures and ages and seeing people develop across all aspects of themselves through dance.

Photo by Luke Toddfrey

Lúcia Salgueiro


Lúcia Salgueiro, born in Almada, Portugal, started her dance training in ballet and contemporary at Escola de Dança da Companhia de Dança de Almada directed by Maria Franco.

In 2015 she joined professional training at Academia de Dança Contemporânea de Setúbal followed by a BA in Contemporary Dance at London Contemporary Dance School.


Spike King


Spike is a dance artist based in South West London who is currently training at Rambert School for Contemporary Dance and Ballet in his first year. He has danced for English National Ballet’s Youth Company as well the National Youth Dance Company while studying at the BRIT School in Croydon.

Photo by Luke Toddfrey

Alex Garland


Born in East Yorkshire, Alex moved to London to study dance at the University of Roehampton. Throughout university she taught for the RSU Dance Society and also completed a semester abroad at Goucher College (Baltimore, U.S.).

After a summer intensive with Jasmin Vardimon in 2019, she was asked to join her JV2 company. They created a triple bill tour with work from Vardimon, Anthony Matena and Mafalda Deville. Currently, She is currently working at Yorkshire Dance. She is excited and honoured to continue working on projects with Combination Dance!

Photo by Luke Toddfrey

Paulina Porwollik


Paulina did her Bachelor and Masters Degree in Contemporary Dance Performance at NSCD in Leeds and worked with Candoco Dance Company for a year as an apprentice dancer.

She is currently working as a freelance dance artist and is teaching her weekly Online Feel Good Programme including Ballet, Fitness, Yoga, Stretching and Improvisation classes.

Photo by Luke Toddfrey

Chloe Mead


Chloe Mead is a freelance dance artist based in London. She works primarily in physical theatre or site specific dance, bringing dance into spaces you might not expect to see it. She believes art and dance should be for everyone to enjoy and have the opportunities to be involved.

Alongside her performance work she teaches dance to children and teenagers and designs and makes costumes for performance. She’s absolutely thrilled to be involved in this project and hope it makes an impact in learning about the amazing research being done.

Want to know more?