MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Latin dance class at Midtown Global Market is doing more than helping people get in shape. It’s reshaping the way people look at part of our community.

Every other Sunday, all shapes, sizes and ages move and groove to sounds from south of the boarder. Rene Thompson leads that free class.

“Dancing is the rhythm of my life,” said Thompson. “It’s a great satisfaction to see how people enjoy what I’m doing.”

Born and trained in Cuba, Thompson built a professional career, touring the world with artists like Will Smith and Gloria Estefan. When he decided to call Minneapolis home, the Midtown neighborhood wasn’t too welcoming of a place for many.

“This was one are that had a bad reputation for drugs and prostitution,” Thompson said of his home 13 years ago. “[The Market] looked at my background and history as a dancer and they asked me to come here and see if I can make a difference.”

Six years later and Thompson’s classes are a huge success. Each class welcomes 20 to 50 people to the neighborhood.

“Any type of person from white to dark, it doesn’t matter what country you’re from — they’re here,” said Inez Jimenez.

They’re also staying in step with a smile on their face. Thompson’s passion for dance and life is contagious, even off the dance floor.

“He lightens you up real quick and you have a better day. That’s the type of person he is. He makes everybody happy,” said Jimenez.

WCCO-TV surprised Thompson with our “Making a Difference” award of $500 from US Bank. But for Thompson, the passion is paid forward through the success from members in the class.

“What I get in the end is the satisfaction to see that just my one hour class — just a little music and dance — turns up their life. That’s really powerful. That touches me.”

Thompson’s free class is offered at his Midtown studio every other Sunday, starting at noon. For more information, visit Rene Dance Studio or Free Global Market Classes.


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