Best Place to Learn Dancing as a Second Language

Ethnic Dance Chicago

Critics' Picks

Latvian Community Center, 4146 N. Elston; last Friday of the month at Southport Performing Arts Conservatory, 3433 W. Peterson; 847-846-8139, ethnicdance.net; $6 suggested donation

For more than 25 years Paul Collins has been teaching people Ghanaian highlife, the Scottish reel, the Bulgarian horo, and what seems to be every other folk dance in the world. These days his group, Ethnic Dance Chicago, meets most Friday nights at the Latvian Center in Irving Park, starting with lessons for beginners at around 8 PM and ending with a dance party, requests from his 13,000-plus tracks welcome. It's a gathering about as multiculti as you can imagine—hence the group's tag line, "Dancing as a second language." Collins himself grew up on the south side, where in the 60s he was exposed to a larger world through Hyde Park's vibrant (and integrated) folk-dance scene. He kept it up as an undergrad at the U. of C., going on to teach at the Old Town School, organize workshops and festivals, and start up his own group. At Ethnic Dance Chicago all are welcome, he emphasizes—as the website says, it’s a "safe haven where folks of all backgrounds and origins (and even some pets) are accepted."