Review: Los Alamitos Dance dazzles in 'The Night Council'

The high school's dance teams wow with their final show of the year

Review: Los Alamitos Dance dazzles in 'The Night Council'
The cast of “The Night Council” takes a bow; leads Benny Nottonson, Allison Qu, and Fiona Sampson Farrell in front. Photo by Bella Kim.

Los Alamitos High School’s dance program displayed spectacular talent in their spring show, “The Night Council.” LAHS dance pulled out all the stops for their last show of the year, which included special effects, student choreography, aerial silks, and water features. They performed Wednesday, April 26 through Saturday, April 29 in the LAHS Performing Arts Center (PAC). I watched the Thursday show, and except for a few prop malfunctions, I was blown away by the performance.

“The Night Council” follows the story of a group of young people fighting to bring freedom to their dystopian society, known as the Collective. Ruled by the dictator the Arbiter, the Collective’s goal is to stamp out emotion, division, and individuality to maximize productivity.

After discovering music and art, protagonists Uriel Baker, Suriel Weaver, Raziel Mason, and Kushiel Ward start the Night Council with other young citizens to bring color and life to their world.

LAHS dance teacher Rikki Jones began writing “The Night Council” with her son, Josh Conner, five years ago and it took on a new relevance as the COVID pandemic rocked the world.

“The idea of this dystopian future really seemed appropriate with COVID going on,” she said.

It finally debuted this year with Tim Jones, Mrs. Jones’ husband, and Krystal Fight and Lulu Barringer, LAHS dance teachers and choreographers.

“Without him, it would not happen. It would be lights on, lights off, the end,” Mrs. Jones said of Mr. Jones, her stage manager and props creator. “The Night Council” involved a lot of props, set changes, lighting, and difficult tech. Mrs. Jones said that the story was inspired by the movie “Pleasantville.”

Dancers undo their plain costumes to reveal a rainbow of colored skirts. Photo by Bella Kim
Dancers undo their plain costumes to reveal a rainbow of colored skirts. Photo by Bella Kim

“It was a black and white world, very static, no emotion, and once people started to think for themselves and feel things, color would be brought in,” Mrs. Jones said.

Members of Collective wore drab, black and gray costumes. To symbolize their emotional freedom, they undid velcro to reveal brightly colored tops and skirts. The whole stage transformed into a sea of colors, and the costume change matched the story’s shift from dark to light. During these cheerful dances, the performers’ energy and bright smiles were contagious. The audience members clapped and cheered along with the dancers in the wings.

The plot of “The Night Council” was easy to follow, and the dance numbers were broken up by dialogue that the dancers prerecorded and lip synced onstage. Laughter filled the audience as the Arbiter’s henchmen, played by Zoey Rosa and Myleigh Vasquez, periodically rolled, carried, and dragged him onstage in vehicles like a wagon, canoe, and dolly cart.

Played by Nicole Didriksen and Kianna Hirahara and voiced by Evan Rosenthal, Fight’s husband, the Arbiter was the comical villain of “The Night Council.” He spoke in a Southern drawl that could quickly become menacing before switching back to forcefully cheerful. The lighting adjusted to match the Arbiter’s tone of voice, and songs like “We are the Champions” and “All I Do Is Win” accompanied his entrances and exits.

Advanced Dance opened the show with a bang, performing the chilling number “The World We Made.” Ominous music filled the PAC, fog rolled out from the stage, and white sheets cascaded from the ceiling to the floor. Performers danced in front and behind to create eerie silhouettes and pushed the sheets around the stage. While the sheets created a unique effect, they caused difficulties during a later number on Thursday and Friday when one of them didn’t come down with the others.

White sheets create shadows of the dancers playing the Collective robots in “Inside.” Photo by Bella Kim
White sheets create shadows of the dancers playing the Collective robots in “Inside.” Photo by Bella Kim

The contemporary and lyrical numbers, like “Fix You” and “Tomorrow” were haunting and graceful. During “Tomorrow,” girls danced hanging from silks and on hoops suspended in the air. LAHS dance’s use of aerial tricks sets their shows apart. As girls twisted above the stage and spun back down to the ground, the audience was on the edge of their seats.

However, there was so much action that audience members sometimes didn’t know where to look. The aerial equipment also had some malfunctions; on Friday one of the aerial rings came onstage late, but it’s likely most spectators didn’t notice.

"’The Night Council’ was an extremely complex show that required everyone to take on multiple jobs beyond just dancing, such as moving sets and props, acting, aerial training, and painting props,” Mrs. Jones wrote in an email.

Many dances were performed to well-known songs like “Unwritten,” “True Colors,” “Freedom!,” and “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back.” Other fun, jazzy numbers included “Battle of the Legends,” “Chocolate City,” and “You’ll Be Back.” In “Hit the Road,” emotionally freed characters dance-battled against Collective robots. Students even performed improvisational dancing in “The Void.”

Emotionally freed Collective members face off against robot guards. Photo by Bella Kim.
Emotionally freed Collective members face off against robot guards. Photo by Bella Kim.

“The Night Council” also showcased student choreography. Benny Nottonson, a senior in Advanced Dance who played Raziel, choreographed a duet to “Love on the Brain” with Allison Qu, who played Uriel.

“‘Love on the Brain’ was quite a ride,” Nottonson shared. He said when they showed their original choreography, created in a couple lunches, to Mrs. Jones, it was “not at all what she was expecting.” They adjusted the dance until it became the duet that everyone loved.

Sarah Yoon, an Intermediate 3 aerial artist, co-choreographed her aerial number with Sam Phomsopha.

“We had so much fun! It was a lot of hard work and pain, but it ended up being super rewarding as our shows went really well,” Yoon, a sophomore, said. “We liked making the choreography ourselves. We had a lot of creative freedom with the tricks!”

Aerial artists in “A New Dawn.” Photo by Bella Kim
Aerial artists in “A New Dawn.” Photo by Bella Kim

Aerial work in other numbers was also created by students, along with ballet and tap choreography in the finale, “A New Dawn.” A small waterfall was brought onstage with three aerial dancers for this number, and the back of the PAC opened to reveal two performers dancing in water outside behind the stage.

This show was particularly emotional for the dancers, as it was the seniors’ last at LAHS. To commemorate this, Mrs. Jones adds special numbers every year for the seniors’ final show. The Advanced seniors performed “This Will Be the Day,” and the Intermediate 3 seniors performed “Keep On.”

Another unique feature of “The Night Council” were the guest participants. Boys from other classes like ASB and Griffin News were brought in to act and partner the Advanced girls in “Better in Color.”

“It was a lot of fun! I made new friends and learned a lot about dancing,” said Sunny Love, a Griffin News senior who used to dance in city musicals. Love danced “Better in Color” and played Father Baker, Uriel’s dad.

“This experience was a great motivation to get back into dancing,” Love said. “The hardest part was probably trying to conquer my stage fright and not mess up the dance. I’ve learned to own the dance and have that confidence to perform.” The guys’ number was extremely entertaining, and students in the audience went wild when they saw their friends holding their own with the Advanced girls.

The sheer amount of dances in this show was astonishing. LAHS dance filled about two-and-half hours with dancing, very impressive for a student production. They started work on “The Night Council” on Jan. 30, giving them about three months to learn 23 dances!

At curtain call, the students who had been in the dance program all four years of high school, the “Four-Year Club,” took a bow together.

Advanced seniors performing “This Will Be the Day”; Nottonson far left. Photo by Bella Kim
Advanced seniors performing “This Will Be the Day”; Nottonson far left. Photo by Bella Kim

“The last show felt amazing. It was a great way to close my senior year. Being a part of the Four-Year Club feels very surreal looking back on all the time I've put in,” Nottonson said.

“I am so proud of all of the dancers and their growth and commitment this year. This group of seniors, especially this Four-Year Club, is unique in that they were the COVID freshmen,” Mrs. Jones wrote in an email. “They stuck it out through dancing online, training under tons of regulations, and have shown that they can triumph in the face of adversity.”

“The Night Council” presented the best that LAHS dance has to offer. The show had the perfect balance of beauty, humor, and excitement, and sent the seniors off with a standing ovation.

Editor’s Note: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story misspelled Allison Qu’s name as Alisson Qu.

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