"We make sacred pact. I promise to teach karate to you, you promise to learn. I say, you do, no questions."
Miyagi leaves little room for discussion in his directive to Daniel Larusso in The Karate Kid. The master is willing to share his knowledge, but not about to waste his time. Because Daniel-son appreciates this, he learns quickly-and in the end, he kicks some ass.
The knowledge masters like Miyagi have to share can't be underestimated. Few, no doubt, will underestimate the potential impact of Jeffrey Gerodias, who returns to San Diego in late June to share what he knows.
At 29 years old, Gerodias has been named one of the top 10 dancers in the country by Dance Magazine. His training began here in San Diego, with classical and jazz lessons at the School of Creative and Performing Arts. It was a few summers later, at a San Diego Dance Theatre workshop similar to the one he's returning to teach, that he was exposed to modern dance as a student of Jean Isaacs (who now creates the annual "Trolley Dances").
"At the School of Creative and Performing Arts there was some modern dance, but mostly classical and jazz," Gerodias explains.
Gerodias says he prefers modern dance but acknowledges a "strong ballet background" is essential.
"I feel like [ballet] is a fantasy world in a way-as an audience member... but also somewhat as a performer. With modern dance, it's more like looking in the mirror. It's got more of a humanistic quality."
Gerodias has been looking in the mirror for so long, he must see everything in reverse. From San Diego, he went on to study dance in Boston, and eventually at the Ailey School in New York. For 10 years, he danced with the Alvin Ailey Dance American Dance Theater (both as a company member and with their affiliated company, Ailey II) until his recent decision to leave.
"I just wanted to do something different," he says. He plans to continue teaching-after this summer, he'll rejoin the Ailey School as a faculty member-and seems excited about his upcoming workshop at the San Diego Dance Theater. He's taught master classes before, but this workshop will be different in that he'll have the leisure of time, which allows him a better grip on his students' progress.
"It's one thing to give a class," he explains, "but it's another thing to really teach and to pass on information."
During the five-day workshop, Gerodias will teach technique and repertory. He plans on bringing "a little of New York back to San Diego" by using live percussionists. "During my training in California, we didn't incorporate a lot of live music," he explains. He also plans to introduce the "Horton technique," a modern dance method developed by Lester Horton.
"It's kind of the technique, I feel, that no one really knows about," says Gerodias. "I wouldn't say that it's based off of yoga, but there are a lot of exercises and stretches that remind me of yoga.... It's really changed my body-not in how it looks, but in what it's capable of." The technique has allowed Gerodias to simultaneously stretch and strengthen, both important for dancers to avoid injuries.
In addition to teaching, Gerodias will help choreograph a piece that will become a permanent part of San Diego Dance Theater's repertory. "It will be my first time on the other side of the studio," he says, enthused. He'll come into the piece with a basic structure, he says, but will leave room for his dancers to get creative.
"Art is always living, it's always changing," he says.
Which seems to be a fair analogy for the manner in which his own role has changed-from student to teacher. Even though the modern dance world has recognized his arrival as a master, Gerodias refuses to be static. As a performer, he says, he's "open to anything."Whatever side of the studio he's on, it's fair to say the former San Diegan is returning to kick some dance ass.