Behind the Scenes

Bringing holiday magic to hometown

Dancer creates original piece

Dancers Catherine Murcek, Lucy Warren-Whitman, Courtney Peix, Jenny Lustig, Nina Brindamour, and Lindsey Ridgeway. Dancers Catherine Murcek, Lucy Warren-Whitman, Courtney Peix, Jenny Lustig, Nina Brindamour, and Lindsey Ridgeway. (Tom Bowling/Contrapose Dance Company)
By Robert Knox
Globe Correspondent / December 17, 2009

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Dancer Courtney Peix grew up in East Bridgewater - “a sweet little town,’’ she says - but one unlikely to offer many opportunities to see professional dance. Now she’s bringing an original holiday season dance production back to her roots.

“I am delighted that I can bring this show and my company to the area I grew up in and know like the back of my hand,’’ Peix said last week, in between rehearsals, teaching, checking costumes, and going over last-minute details for “A Christmas Toy Story.”

Peix, 30, and collaborator Lucy Warren-Whitman developed the original holiday dance piece last year for Contrapose Dance, the company Peix founded two years ago to provide performance opportunities for the Boston area’s dance community and family-friendly entertainment for audiences. The company is based in Cambridge, where it rehearses in the Green Street Studios.

The holiday season is the inspiration for the company’s dancing toy story, Peix said. “I’m one of those people who really love Christmas. We sat down and came up with the story. It’s very entertaining and sweet and gets people to the theater.’’

Performed for the first time last year in Cambridge, the production was well received. This year Contrapose is taking its show on the road.

The piece’s cast of seven professional dancers and 30 students dance the story of a handful of broken toys who put themselves back together in Santa’s workshop, after suffering ridicule from the shop’s intact and snooty toys.

The snooty toys are danced by students. “And they are really mean,’’ Peix said.

Happily, a “wind fairy’’ (danced by Ruth Bronwen, who trained with Boston Ballet) arrives to blow away the taunts of the well-made toys. The broken toys dance their relief, despite handicaps. A toy soldier (Kathryn Dunkel, a teacher at Dancers Workshop) suffers from a short leg. A teddy bear (Contrapose apprentice dancer Nina Brindamour) lacks stuffing. Jenny Lustig, who has danced with Boston Dance Company, plays a ballerina hamstrung by oversized shoes. Raggedy Ann (Lucy Warren-Whitman, a teacher at Boston Dance Company) and Raggedy Andy (Catherine Murcek of Green Street Studios) have been sewn together. The Jack-in-the-Box (German-born dancer Lindsey Ridgeway) can’t think outside the box because her box won’t open.

But when the broken toys realize that Santa is running short of toys, they band together to fix each other. In the immortal words of many a Christmas fable, “Christmas is saved!’’

The piece’s choreography consists of solos by the seven adult dancers, duets, and ensemble dances. Among the student dancers, the youngest play the elves, early teens play the “wind minions,’’ and older teens are the “well-made’’ toys.

The hour-long performance was a hit for children as young as age 2 last year, Peix said, and one father on parental duty told her, “I actually didn’t fall asleep.’’

The work relies on music by composers such as Russian giant Sergei Prokofiev. “We really love Prokofiev. His music has such personality to it that it’s good for ballets,’’ Peix said.

The score uses music from Prokofiev’s “Classical Symphony,’’ “The Love for Three Oranges,’’ and the ballet “Cinderella.’’ It also borrows from works by Benjamin Britten’s “Simple Symphony,’’ “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,’’ and “Suite on English Folk Tunes’’; and from Ludwig Minkus’s ballet “Paquita,’’ which provides a setting for a lovely ballerina solo.

Peix, who now lives in Methuen, has performed with Boston Liturgical Dance Ensemble and the Margot Parsons Dance Company and is currently a member of Sokolow Now!, the Anna Sokolow Archival Dance Company.

She decided to start her own company because, she said, there are more good dancers in Greater Boston - “interesting, beautiful, and talented people’’ - than productions for them to dance in.

Her goals are to present new work, commission work from choreographers, and offer exciting, engaging work to audiences - an ambitious mission.

“If you’re going to go for it, you might as well really go for it,’’ Peix said. “I am very focused on building my audience and becoming a strong presence in the dance community.’’

Robert Knox can be reached at

‘A Christmas Toy Story’

Dance production by Contrapose Dance

Bridgewater State College’s Rondileau Campus Center, 19 Park Ave.

Saturday, 5:30 p.m.

Sunday, 3 p.m.

$12, $8 children 12 and under


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