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 [DCFF]Organizer facilitates passion for folk dance
Chicago Tribune - June 28, 2003 - Chicago Tribune
by Alex L Goldfayn  -

Paul Collins has been an entrepreneur for more than two decades and his company has been facilitating business meetings for about 10 years (

But in his free time, Collins engages in a different sort of facilitation: He's an ethnic folk dance organizer, instructor and caller.

"I've been folk dancing since I was 8," he said. "And I called my first square dance when I was 12."

What is folk dancing?

"It's a celebration of nature, work and culture manifested in music," Collins said.

For about 20 hours each week, he's engaged in activities involving this celebration. When he's not dancing, Collins teaches folk dancing classes on Fridays at Chicago's St. Josaphat Parish Hall. He also calls folk dances, and these days, Collins is deep into the planning of the Door County Folk Festival.
Leading dancing at the University of ChicagoTo spread the word about July's festival in Door County, Wis.--Collins is a co-director--he put together a Web site ( that details activities and locations and answers common questions.

He maintains another, more detailed site ( which "may be the broadest ethnic folk dancing site on the Net."

Here, dance enthusiasts can find details on the Chicago-area folk dance scene and coming workshops. They can even download ethnic music files.

Collins uses Macromedia Dreamweaver to design and maintain his text-heavy pages and Adobe Photoshop to create the graphical elements.

One of the links on the Ethnic Dance home page takes visitors to indexed instructions on converting analog music to Sony's digital MiniDisc format. Collins has transferred more than 10,000 folk titles from records to MiniDiscs since 1998. He said he chose to convert his collection to the MiniDisc format instead of the cheaper, more popular CD-R format because the medium is smaller and re-recordable.

"MiniDiscs also have very good shock protection," he said. "Compact discs skip when you're doing dances that involve stomping."

When Collins needs to purchase MiniDisc equipment, he turns to Minidisco (

To organize all that music, Collins has designed a custom database using the Alpha Five database development tool (about $100 at

"It's very easy to use," he said. They call it the database that Bill Gates doesn't want you to know about, he added, laughing.

Collins also employs the software to manage his mailing list and registrants to the Door County Folk Festival. He prints name tags and tickets directly from the software.

"I couldn't manage all this without technology," he said. "As you can see, it helps me tremendously."

Could his experience as a dance organizer and facilitator be responsible for his passion for running meetings in the corporate world?

"I first saw the connection years ago. It hit me that facilitating clients is quite similar to the work I do in folk dance," Collins said.

Copyright (c) 2003, Chicago Tribune