Simon Thomas-Train had a trial by fire upon joining Attack Theatre last fall. He arrived on a Monday, began rehearsing R.A.M. (the group’s human-friendly, computer-inspired piece and part of the upcoming program at the New Hazlett Theater) and within days did a lecture-demonstration, played James Bond at “Game Nght” and had 500 students following him at a school performance.
That last event must have been due to the name — after all, kids grow up with Thomas and his locomotive friends. More likely, though, it was Simon’s intelligence, communication skills and movement agility that landed him the job with Attack’s high-energy cadre of people.
Born in Keene Valley, “way upstate near Lake Placid,” Simon used his physical gifts in martial arts as a child (“my first introduction to being in my body and understanding how it works) and then, quite naturally for the area, became a cross-country skier. He competed for 12 years, including a couple at Middlebury State College, one of America’s oldest liberal arts colleges and a Nordic hotbed in Vermont. But it was where he also became attracted to dance as a freshman and subsequently quit the competitive snowscene.
Still there were signs along the way. Simon always did a lot of visual art, ceramics, painting and ink drawing in high school (shades of Bill T. Jones and Doug Elkins). So maybe it was just inevitable. To Simon, dance was “a natural combination of the physical and the artistic. Through some great teachers, I saw the potential of combining those two things. It made more and more sense to me the further I got into it that dance was the right choice.”
He went on to the Bates Dance Festival in Maine and American Dance Festival in North Carolina, plus “some in Europe and a few summer programs and things…”
Following graduation in 2009, Simon performed with Big Action Performance Ensemble in Middlebury. But that taste of Europe turned didn’t go away. It turned into a reality when he moved to Brussels, Belguim in January 2010 to join Satya Roosens Dance Ensemble for a work that was performed in river and ocean landscapes. “We worked on a platform in water with wetsuits under our costumes, which were white,” he explains. “They had expandable flaps attached so that they would expand under the water and stick to you when you were out of the water — it was a cool piece.”
As it so happened, an intern at Attack, Sophia Levine, had danced with Simon at Middlebury. She thought he might be the kind of dancer that the company was looking for as it expanded to six performers and contacted him. Subsequently Simon was invited for an audition.
At first he was nervous about the Attack dancers’ technical proficiency, but gradually learned that his talents at choreography and improvisation might add a new dimension to the group.
“At the beginning I felt like people were trying to convince me that it was a great place to be,” the new Lawrenceville resident recalls. “I found that this is really a good mix of small town/big town — small enough where you can get to know people easily, but big enough to have the amenities that a bigger city offers. So I’m happy.”