Jarrel Mathebula - “I need to make sure that I display the values I represent.”
Jarrel Mathebula - “I need to make sure that I display the values I represent.”

Interview with Jarrel Mathebula

By Brandstories Time of article published May 28, 2021

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By Tseliso Monaheng

Since founding the world-renowned Indigenous Dance Academy, social entrepreneur and dancer Jarrel Mathebula has become a force to reckon with in his community of Tembisa.

His relentless drive and commitment towards the youth are exactly why he fits into the Ballantine’s ethos, and why he was selected alongside Shimza and other creative luminaries to feature in the Ballantine’s Stay True: There’s No Wrong Way commercial.

Whether dance, fashion, art or music is your preferred form of self-expression, there’s no wrong way if you stay true to yourself. That’s the message behind the inspiring new commercial, which harnesses the power of our diverse local talent to show that in a world of impersonators, individuality is king.

This ethos draws from founder George Ballantine unconventional codes of operation, which date as far back as the early parts of the 1800s.

We caught up with Jarrel to chat about his passion for the youth and to find out how he stays true to himself.

What does being a social entrepreneur mean to you?

Being a social entrepreneur to me means being able to grow by lifting others and knowing that I can change lives by doing what I love.

How did the idea of IDA come about?

Growing up, I was always dancing and this led to people wanting me to teach them how to dance. This encouraged me to start a dance academy with my partner and we taught our friends as well the kids in our community which led to IDA.

How has the academy expanded over the years?

Over the years the Academy has grown in leaps and bounds. We’ve been blessed with countless life-changing opportunities such as traveling Europe, employment, and educational opportunities. This has solidified the Academy’s role in the community to help develop the youth.

What do you count as your proudest moments?

My proudest moments will always be seeing IDA alumni grow and succeed because they’re growth is directly linked to my growth and success.

You’re renowned as one of the originators of iSbujwa. How have you carried and honoured that over the years?

Is’bhujwa is a culture and a lifestyle. The best way to honour culture is pass it on to the younger generation to preserve and improve it. I’ve also realized that the older I get, the better and more experienced I become as a dancer.

What are some of the ways in which you’ve had to be responsible, being that you’re partially in charge of changing outlooks and improving lives?

I’m a firm believer in practicing what you preach because I’m seen as a positive role model in my community, I need to make sure that I display the values I represent. I also try to be as transparent as possible with who I am so that people realize that I’m also a person who makes mistakes but it’s about how I learn from them.

Do you still compete professionally? If so, what’s your mindset before going onto the stage during a competition?

I don’t compete professionally anymore however, I do judge competition and choreograph shows. My general thought process before getting on stage as a dancer is to switch on your confidence, have the time of your life and dance like the last time you’ll ever dance. You don’t stop until you get off the stage.

Do you have a health and fitness routine that you maintain? If so, what is it?

Dancing is the best fitness regime I have. I’ve always been into sports and fitness growing up. So I still use the basic sporting practices to keep healthy such as diet, working out and staying as active as possible.

In what ways would you say that you stay true to your roots?

The best way I stay true to my roots is not forgetting where I come from. I’m deeply rooted in the township and it has influenced the type of person I am. My creative process is heavily influenced by the township hence, I am passionate about improving and growing the youth in my community which means no matter how successful I become, I can always come back home to reconnect.

What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had on the growth trajectory of IDA?

IDA has become more of a family than an academy. We’ve had to rely on each other during the pandemic although we had to pause with rehearsals and performances. We’ve had time to all learn to focus on personal development as well as create strategies to help improve the academy. If anything this became an opportunity to reset.

Have you managed to strike a balance between your personal and professional commitments? If so, how do you do it?

Striking a balance between my personal and professional commitments is a bit tricky because I am my profession. So I have had to learn to create ways to bring those two together as well as prioritizing.

What’s next on the cards for you?

The future is always looking bright for me because I always keep an optimistic mindset. I still plan to create an impact in changing my community through the arts.

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