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Kenny Ortega

Kenny Ortega
Ortega at This Is It launch in HMV London, February 22, 2010
Born Kenneth John Ortega
(1950-04-18) April 18, 1950
Palo Alto, California
United States
Occupation Television producer
Film producer
Television director
Years active 1980–present
Website Official site

Kenneth John "Kenny" Ortega (born April 18, 1950) is an American film and television producer, director, and choreographer, best known for directing Hocus Pocus, the High School Musical trilogy and Michael Jackson's This Is It concerts.[1]


  • Biography 1
  • Filmography and concerts 2
  • Awards 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Ortega was born in Palo Alto, California. He attended Sequoia High School (Redwood City, California). Ortega is the son of Madeline, a waitress, and Octavio "Tibby" Ortega, a factory worker from Redwood City.[2] His grandparents were from Spain.[3] Initially known for working with dancer and choreographer Gene Kelly on the film Xanadu, Ortega went on to choreographing 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 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, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, and was choreographer of The Cheetah Girls 2.

On January 30, 2008, Ortega presented director-choreographer Adam Shankman with a Lifetime Achievement Award at The Carnival: Choreographer's Ball 9th anniversary show.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] Ortega is now set to direct the upcoming movie adaptation of the Broadway musical In the Heights.[9]

On August 9, 2011, it was announced that Ortega will direct a remake of Dirty Dancing, which he choreographed in 1987. Lionsgate Films has yet to announce the release date.[10]

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

In 2014, Ortega signed with Disney to direct Descendants, a new Disney Channel Original Movie. It was released July 31, 2015.

Filmography and concerts

Year Title Notes Rotten Tomatoes rating Budget Gross
1980 Xanadu Choreographer 39% $20 million $22,762,571
1985 St. Elmo's Fire 47% $10 million $37,803,672
1986 Pretty in Pink 81% $9 million $40,471,663
Ferris Bueller's Day Off 79% $6 million $70,136,369
1987 Dirty Dancing 68% $6 million $213,954,274
1988 Salsa 50% Usuk $8,892,589
1989 Shag 64% N/A $6,957,975
1992 Newsies Choreographer, Director 30% $15 million $2,819,485
1993 Hocus Pocus Director 32% $28 million $39,514,713
1995 To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar Choreographer 42% N/A $47,774,193
1998 Quest for Camelot 36% $40 million $22,510,798
2006 High School Musical Choreographer, Director 56% $4.4 million N/A
2006 The Cheetah Girls 2 N/A N/A N/A
2007 High School Musical 2 57% $7 million N/A
2008 High School Musical 3: Senior Year 65% $11 million $252,909,177
2008 Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Choreographer 71% $7 million $70,642,036
2009 Michael Jackson's This Is It Director 81% $60 million $261,183,588
2015 Descendants Choreographer, Director TBA TBA N/A
Year Title Role Number of Episodes
1988 Dirty Dancing Director 2 episodes
1990 Hull High Choreographer, director 2 episodes
1996 Second Noah Director 1 episode
1998–1999 Chicago Hope 2 episodes
2000 Resurrection Blvd. 1 episode
2001 Grounded for Life 1 episode
2001-2002 Ally McBeal 3 episodes
2002–2006 Gilmore Girls 11 episodes
2012 Bunheads 1 episode
Year Title Notes
1989–1990 Cher's Heart of Stone Tour Director
1991-1992 Gloria Estefan's Into The Light World Tour Choreographer
1992–1993 Michael Jackson's Dangerous World Tour Director
1996-1997 Gloria Estefan's Evolution World Tour Choreographer
1996–1997 Michael Jackson's HIStory World Tour" Director
2003 Gloria Estefan's Live & Unwrapped Show Director and Choreographer
2004 Gloria Estefan's Live & Re-Wrapped Tour Choreographer
2006–2007 High School Musical: The Concert" Director
2007–2008 Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Tour" Director, Choreographer
2009–2010 (cancelled) Michael Jackson's This Is It concerts Director


Year Award Category
2008 ALMA Award Special Achievement Award – Outstanding Director[11][12]
2009 National Association of Latino Independent Producers Outstanding Achievement Award[13]
30th Young Artist Awards[14] Jackie Coogan Award - Contribution to Youth


  1. ^ and DescendantsKenny Ortega Interview, Michael Jackson's This Is It.
  2. ^ Hartlaub, Peter (2008-10-19). "'"Ortega directs 'High School Musical 3. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-10-31. 
  3. ^ Hernández, Lee (October 23, 2008). "'"Kenny Ortega: The man behind every step of 'High School Musical 3. Daily News (New York). 
  4. ^ "Kenny Ortega: Biography" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  5. ^ Segal, Lewis (February 1, 2008). "'"Dance Review: At least dancers had a 'Ball.  
  6. ^ "Michael Jackson Gets Ready For Tour". 2009-05-12. 
  7. ^ Hinckley, Daivd; Huff, Richard (2009-07-08). "Michael Jackson's memorial 2nd most-watched funeral ever, after Princess Di, say Nielsen ratings". New York: 
  8. ^ Footloose Remake Loses Its Director News in Film
  9. ^ Gans, Andrew. In the Heights'""Universal Plans Silver-Screen Adaptation of ,, November 7, 2008
  10. ^ 
  11. ^ ALMA Awards Special Achievement Award –Outstanding Director
  12. ^ Kenny-Ortega and Roselyn-Sanchez at Alma Awards
  13. ^ Outstanding Achievement Award
  14. ^ "30th Annual Young Artist Awards". Retrieved May 11, 2012. 

External links

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