Taylor Henderson lands role as Ariel
Ahwatukee Foothills Taylor Henderson resident recently began her first production as the star, none other than Ariel herself, in Tokyo DisneySea Submitted photo

Desert Vista High School graduate Taylor Henderson was suspended 30 feet above ground when the 9.0 earthquake struck Japan on March 11.

She was in the middle of her "Under the Sea" performance as Ariel at Tokyo DisneySea when the stage began to shake.

"It was one of scariest moments of my life," she said. "I had to ride it out suspended. ‘Nervous' I think is an understatement."

Looking out into the crowd, she saw members in the audience ducking under their chairs and right underneath her at the foot of the stage was a group of kids.

"I didn't want to traumatize them more by letting them see Ariel scream and cry," she said. "I just smiled at them and blew them a kiss."

When the earthquake subsided, Henderson was lowered to the ground. She said she didn't know what to expect when she and the cast were evacuated from the building.

"When it happened I had no idea when I walked outside what I would see," Henderson said. "I ran out back and then there was a second earthquake. I saw cracks in the road and there was a lot of mud."

She stayed in Tokyo for a week before returning home on March 17.

"The company gave us the option of staying or leaving," Henderson said. "I stayed in the area of my apartment and going to the airport it was the first time I had really gone out."

Some of the stage managers stayed to help the cast and crew after the earthquake despite their families being in the northern part of the country, closer to the epicenter.

"They were worried about finding us a place to stay because we can't understand Japanese TV," Henderson, 24, said. "It's amazing the respect level they have amidst the devastation and how efficient they are."

Henderson will return to Japan in the next couple of weeks. Her performance at Tokyo DisneySea began last August.

"Dance performing is a healing art," she said. "Even if we give them just a minute of fun or peace or imagination, we've done our job. I'm really looking forward to that."

Before she returns, Henderson and a friend will be conducting a fundraiser for victims of the earthquake and tsunami. They will be hosting free yoga class on Wednesday, March 30 at Center Pointe Dance, 4825 E. Warner Road. Class times are 6 a.m., 8 a.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

All donations will go toward Japan Earthquake Pacific Tsunami Fund through the American Red Cross.

Disney also said it would match up to $1 million in donations made in their name.

To find out more about the classes, call (480) 598-8428.

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