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Kenny Ortega
Kenny ortega.jpg
Ortega in February 2010
Kenneth John Ortega

(1950-04-18) April 18, 1950 (age 71)
OccupationProducer, director, choreographer
Years active1980–present

Kenneth John Ortega (born April 18, 1950) is an American producer, director and choreographer. He directed the films Newsies (1992), Hocus Pocus (1993), the High School Musical trilogy (2006–2008), Michael Jackson's This Is It (2009)[1] and the Descendants trilogy (2015–2019). Ortega has choreographed films including St. Elmo's Fire (1985), Pretty in Pink (1986), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) and Dirty Dancing (1987). He has also directed multiple concert tours, including tours for Cher, Gloria Estefan and Michael Jackson. In 2019, Ortega was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early life

Ortega was born in Palo Alto, California, the son of Madeline, a waitress, and Octavio "Tibby" Ortega, a factory worker. Both of his parents were also born in Palo Alto,[2] though his paternal grandparents were Spanish immigrants.[3] He attended Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California, where he was a cheerleader.


Initially, Ortega came out of the San Francisco Arts scene, working with the Tubes. In 1979, Ortega was contracted to work with KISS on their Dynasty Tour. He became more recognized after working with dancer and choreographer Gene Kelly on the film Xanadu, Ortega went on to choreograph the dance for the Menudo video "Hold Me", as well as the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, and has won awards for choreography in music videos, such as Madonna's "Material Girl". He also worked with The Tubes on their stage shows and directed the video for "She's a Beauty". Ortega also did the choreography for Styx's "Mr. Roboto" video.

Ortega directed Billy Squier's "Rock Me Tonite" video, which is often cited as the worst music promo clip ever made and has been blamed by Squier for killing his career. Together with Michael Jackson, he created and designed the Dangerous World Tour (1992–1993) and the HIStory World Tour (1996–1997). He has also choreographed events ranging from Super Bowl XXX, the 72nd Academy Awards, the 1996 Summer Olympics (Atlanta) and the 2002 Winter Olympics (Salt Lake City).[4]

In addition, Ortega has directed and choreographed High School Musical, High School Musical 2, and High School Musical 3: Senior Year, as well as The Cheetah Girls 2.

In May 2009, Ortega began work on the scheduled Michael Jackson 50-date This Is It concerts, which was cancelled subsequent to Jackson's sudden death.[5] He directed the concert film Michael Jackson's This Is It which was put together from rehearsal footage recorded at the Los Angeles Forum and the Staples Center. The film was released on October 28.

Ortega directed the Michael Jackson Public Memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which was broadcast live on several networks on July 7, 2009. It reached a television audience of 31 million in America, and more than 1 billion worldwide and via the internet.[6] At the end of the service, he introduced a rendition of Jackson's 1985 charity single "We Are the World" created for the This Is It concerts, featuring Jackson's backing singers on lead vocals with his dancers performing around them.

He was set to direct the 2011 Footloose remake, but dropped out in October 2009 due to differences with Paramount over the budget and tone of the film.[7] Ortega was also hired to direct a film adaptation of the Broadway musical In the Heights for Universal, but the studio dropped the project in 2011 due to budgetary and casting issues.[8]

On August 9, 2011, it was announced that Ortega will direct a remake of Dirty Dancing, a project that was later postponed.[9]

On May 12, 2014, Ortega guest-judged on the 18th season of Dancing with the Stars during the semifinals.

Personal life

Ortega is openly gay, and in a 2014 interview with anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution, he said that "as a gay man having grown up in the 50s and 60s, I have to say, I'm very proud of the industry that I work in," referring to the acceptance of people with different sexual orientations in show business.[10]

Filmography and concerts


Year Title Choreographer Director Producer Rotten Tomatoes Budget Box office
1980 Xanadu Yes No No 39% $20 million US$22.7 million
1982 One from the Heart Yes No No 48% $26 million $0.6 million
1985 St. Elmo's Fire Yes No No 47% $10 million $37.8 million
1986 Pretty in Pink Yes No No 81% $9 million $40.4 million
Ferris Bueller's Day Off Yes No No 79% $6 million $70.1 million
1987 Dirty Dancing Yes No No 72% $6 million $213.9 million
1988 Salsa Yes No No 50% $6 million $8.8 million
1989 Shag Yes No No 64% $5 million $6.9 million
1992 Newsies Yes Yes No 30% $15 million $2.8 million
1993 Hocus Pocus Yes Yes No 32% $28 million $39.5 million
1995 To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar Yes No No 42% N/A $47.7 million
1998 Quest for Camelot Yes No No 36% $40 million $22.5 million
2008 High School Musical 3: Senior Year Yes Yes Executive 65% $11 million $252.9 million
2009 Michael Jackson's This Is It Yes Yes Yes 81% $60 million $261.1 million
2017 A Change of Heart No Yes No N/A N/A N/A


Year Title Choreographer Director Producer Notes
1988 Dirty Dancing No Yes No 2 episodes
1990 Hull High Yes Yes Executive 2 episodes
1996 Second Noah No Yes No 1 episode
1998–99 Chicago Hope No Yes No 2 episodes
2000 Resurrection Blvd. No Yes No 1 episode
2001 Grounded for Life No Yes No 1 episode
2001–02 Ally McBeal No Yes No 3 episodes
2002–06 Gilmore Girls No Yes No 11 episodes
2006 High School Musical Yes Yes No Television movie (budget: $4.4 million)
The Cheetah Girls 2 Yes Yes No Television movie
2007 High School Musical 2 Yes Yes Yes Television movie (budget: $7 million)
2012 Bunheads No Yes No 1 episode
2015 Descendants Yes Yes Executive Television movie
2016 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend No Yes No 1 episode
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again Yes Yes No Television movie
2017 Descendants 2 Yes Yes Executive Television movie
2019 Descendants 3 Yes Yes Executive Television movie


Year Title Choreographer Director Notes
1989–90 Cher's Heart of Stone Tour No Yes
1991–92 Gloria Estefan's Into The Light World Tour Yes No
1992–93 Michael Jackson's Dangerous World Tour No Yes
1996–97 Gloria Estefan's Evolution World Tour Yes No
1996–97 Michael Jackson's HIStory World Tour No Yes
2003 Gloria Estefan's Live & Unwrapped Yes Yes
2004 Gloria Estefan's Live & Re-Wrapped Tour Yes No
2006 The Boy from Oz Yes Yes Australian arena tour[11]
2006–07 High School Musical: The Concert No Yes Also producer
2007–08 Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Tour Yes Yes
2009–10 (cancelled) Michael Jackson's This Is It Yes Yes

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Work / nominee Result Ref.
2001 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Choreography Grounded for Life Nominated [12]
2002 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Choreography (shared with Doug Jack and Sarah Kawahara) Opening Ceremony Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games Won [13]
2006 Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directing – Children's Programs High School Musical Won [14]
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Choreography (shared with Charles Klapow and Bonnie Story) High School Musical Won [15]
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Special High School Musical Nominated [16]
2007 Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directing – Children's Programs High School Musical 2 Nominated [17]
Helpmann Awards Best Choreography in a Musical (shared with Kelley Abbey) The Boy from Oz Won [18]
2008 ALMA Award Outstanding Director of a Made-for-TV Movie High School Musical 2 Won [19]
Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Choreography (shared with Charles Klapow and Bonnie Story) High School Musical 2 Nominated [20]
2009 National Association of Latino Independent Producers Outstanding Achievement Award Kenny Ortega Won [21]
Young Artist Award Jackie Coogan Award – Contribution to Youth High School Musical Won [22]
2015 Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directing – Children's Programs Descendants Won [23]


  1. ^ "KennyOrtega Interview, Michael Jacksons This Is It". Archived from the original on November 1, 2009. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  2. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (October 19, 2008). "Ortega directs 'High School Musical 3'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 31, 2010.
  3. ^ Hernández, Lee (October 23, 2008). "KennyOrtega: The man behind every step of 'High School Musical 3'". Daily News. New York.
  4. ^ "KennyOrtega: Biography" (PDF). Archived from the original (pdf) on December 18, 2008. Retrieved June 15, 2009. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  5. ^ "Michael Jackson Gets Ready For Tour". Sky News. May 12, 2009.
  6. ^ Hinckley, Daivd; Huff, Richard (July 8, 2009). "Michael Jackson's memorial 2nd most-watched funeral ever, after Princess Di, say Nielsen ratings". Daily News. New York.
  7. ^ Fleming, Michael (October 25, 2009). "Ortega exits Paramount's 'Footloose'". Variety. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  8. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (March 28, 2011). "Universal Dropping Musical 'In The Heights'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  9. ^ Chaney, Jen (August 8, 2011). "'Dirty Dancing' the remake: Should it be pursued or put in a corner forever?". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 9, 2016.
  10. ^ "KennyOrtega - As a Gay Man". IMDb. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  11. ^ Rooney, David (August 6, 2006). "The Boy from Oz". Variety. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  12. ^ "53rd Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  13. ^ "54th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  14. ^ "59th annual DGA awards". Director's Guild of America. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  15. ^ "58th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  16. ^ "58th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  17. ^ "60th annual DGA awards". Director's Guild of America. Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  18. ^ "Past nominees and winners, 2007". Helpmann Awards. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  19. ^ "ALMA Awards 2012". Alma Awards. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  20. ^ "60th Emmy Awards Nominees and Winners". Retrieved March 6, 2018.
  21. ^ Crystal A. Johnson. "LTTS Exclusive: An Interview With High School Musical Director KennyOrtega". Look to the Stars.
  22. ^ "30th Annual Young Artist Awards". Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved May 11, 2012. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  23. ^ "68th annual DGA awards". Director's Guild of America. Retrieved March 6, 2018.

External links

This page was last edited on 4 August 2019, at 01:52
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