"I love it when people get together and make wonderful things happen," said Rose "Shoshanna" Anthony, a dancer, teacher, kids' party planner and longtime Arcata resident. Surprisingly, COVID-19 provided her the opportunity to do just that.

A Cal Poly Humboldt faculty member, the effervescent Shoshanna was growing tired of holding classes over Zoom during the darkest days of lockdown. "I was getting sad about dancing online and kind of needed a pandemic obsession," she said recently. "I got pretty good at doing Zoom dance performances and hosting webinars and [using Zoom as a theater] and so I was asked [by Arcata Main Street] to do a virtual kids zone in 2020." She accepted and then stayed on with the organization after the event.

A small nonprofit, Arcata Main Street's purpose is to "create a vibrant downtown by fostering business vitality and providing opportunities for community events," according to its website. Its biggest annual event is the Arcata Bay Oyster Festival, which ran fully and partially virtual for the past two years. Shoshanna's passions fit perfectly with the nonprofit's mission and so she turned her energy toward its endeavors.

Over the last two years, Shoshanna and her colleagues not only managed to organize numerous small events for the community to attend, but also planted seeds for projects now coming to fruition. For example, they figured out a way for performers and community members to put on shows outside but still remain protected from the elements under a big top circus tent. Using grant money awarded to the city, Arcata Main Street, along with several other arts institutions, including the Arcata Playhouse, bought a 40-by-80-foot, red and blue striped tent and recently pitched it in the old Creamery field.

"We're just trying to make a place where people can do a lot of their different kinds of events," explained Shoshanna. So far, the Arcata Playhouse has utilized the tent for its Family Fun Series. During spring break, it's offering workshops for kids and Shoshanna is hosting Rainbow Fairy Camp. "There's a really cool belly dance burlesque show coming up ... and the steel drum festival that Jesse Jonathan puts on will be happening in May. There are just so many things that are going to go into that tent, including the Kinetic [Grand Championship] kickoff. Maybe schools are going to want to do graduations there," she added.

While connecting people and thinking outside the creative box appears to be two of Shoshanna's superpowers, her background is firmly planted in art and dance. "I've been dancing my whole life and I've taken dance at many different local studios," she said. As a child, she studied ballet but quit when she was a tween. "I got into point shoes and I those were really uncomfortable. I had weak ankles and I kept twisting them. ... It was not a delightful experience for me," she recalled.

Wanting to keep dancing, Shoshanna decided to try belly dancing at the studio where she studied ballet. "I went to some summer classes and I really loved it. I loved the fabric. I loved the music. I loved the fact that it was barefoot," she said with a laugh. She also dabbled a bit in modern dance and tap, but by age 17, she was focused on belly dancing. "I started going to this Middle Eastern music and dance camp in Mendocino every year. And I went to that for 23 years until last couple years."

After high school, she attended what was then Humboldt State University, earning a BA in art studio and art history. Active in the dance department as a student, she has remained affiliated with the college (now Cal Poly Humboldt) and currently teaches Middle Eastern dance courses.

In addition to her work with Cal Poly, Shoshanna founded a dance studio, Redwood Raks (which is now a nonprofit) and started a children's birthday party business. One could say belly dancing and fancy-dress parties are her signatures. Shoshanna could often be found sporting a pair of fairy wings at kids birthday parties and the 2019 Fairy Festival, at which she and others donned mystical costumes for the Frolick of the Fairies. The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, a mermaid and characters from the Wizard of Oz are also in her repertoire. Needless to say, Shoshanna is fond of the whimsical.

When COVID hit, however, her dress-up days took a drastic hit. The pandemic "completely obliterated my [party] business," she said. So, Shoshanna threw herself into her work with Arcata Main Street; last year there were approximately 40 days of events, she said. "And this year we have 10 weeks of the Sunday art market and 10 weeks of the summer concert series, among other events, that people can enjoy."

Shoshanna likened putting on events continuously for the past year-plus to tap dancing on quicksand. "It's been really hard, the pivoting and twirling; the chaos and changeability of everything makes some people go crazy," she said, admitting that her "problem-solving creative brain is a little tired right now."

In the upcoming weeks, Shoshanna will be doing her best to transition to a less time-consuming role at Main Street, as she'll soon be embarking on a new path with the Humboldt County Library. "I'm going to be working as the children's services outreach coordinator all through county libraries. And I am so excited. I don't want to abandon Main Street or this outdoor events grant, but I'm going be working with kids more, which I love, love, love."

As for her work with Main Street, she said "It's been an adventurous journey and it's really wonderful to have people in the city and ... all these different organizations come together and [use their creative power]." While she'll continue to support "all the wonderful, magical things" the organizations are doing, Shoshanna's looking forward to not being the point person for so many things. "I'd love to cruise into the rest of 2022 being ... an ambassador and a connector of people," she said. Which will probably still involve plenty of twirling.

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Michelle Drown

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