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, Descendants and Michael Jackson's This Is It concerts.[1]

Life and career

Ortega was born in Palo Alto, California. He attended Sequoia High School (Redwood City, California). Kenny was also a cheerleader at Sequoia High School, where a lot of people made fun of him. 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, a project that was later postponed.[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 Role Rotten Tomatoes rating Budget Gross
1980 Xanadu Choreographer 39% $20 million $22,762,571
1982 One from the Heart 48% $26 million $636,796
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% N/A $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
2008 High School Musical 3: Senior Year Director, Executive Producer, Choreographer 65% $11 million $252,909,177
Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Choreographer 71% $7 million $70,642,036
2009 Michael Jackson's This Is It Director, Producer 81% $60 million $261,183,588


Year Title Role Notes
1988 Dirty Dancing Director 2 episodes
1990 Hull High Choreographer, director 2 episodes
1996 Second Noah Director 1 episode
1998–99 Chicago Hope 2 episodes
2000 Resurrection Blvd. 1 episode
2001 Grounded for Life 1 episode
2001–02 Ally McBeal 3 episodes
2002–06 Gilmore Girls 11 episodes
2006 High School Musical Choreographer, Director Television movie (budget: $4.4 million)
The Cheetah Girls 2 Television movie
2007 High School Musical 2 Television movie (budget: $7 million)
2012 Bunheads Director 1 episode
2015 Descendants Choreographer, Director Television movie
2016 Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Director 1 episode
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again Choreographer, Director Television movie
2017 Descendants 2 Television movie


Year Title Notes
1989–90 Cher's Heart of Stone Tour Director
1991–92 Gloria Estefan's Into The Light World Tour Choreographer
1992–93 Michael Jackson's Dangerous World Tour Director
1996–97 Gloria Estefan's Evolution World Tour Choreographer
1996–97 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
2006–07 High School Musical: The Concert" Director
2007–08 Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Tour" Director, Choreographer
2009–10 (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 Jackie Coogan Award – Contribution to Youth[14]


  1. "Kenny Ortega Interview, Michael Jacksons This Is It".
  2. Hartlaub, Peter (October 19, 2008). "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'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-07-05.
  6. "Michael Jackson Gets Ready For Tour". Sky News. May 12, 2009.
  7. 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.
  8. Footloose Remake Loses Its Director News in Film
  9. Gans, Andrew (November 7, 2008). "Universal Plans Silver-Screen Adaptation of 'In the Heights'",
  10. Chaney, Jen (August 8, 2011). "'Dirty Dancing' the remake: Should it be pursued or put in a corner forever?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-01-09.
  11. "ALMA Awards 2012". Alma Awards. Archived from the original on 2012-07-17.
  12. "Kenny G files for divorce". Thaindian News.
  13. Crystal A. Johnson. "LTTS Exclusive: An Interview With High School Musical Director Kenny Ortega". Look to the Stars.
  14. "30th Annual Young Artist Awards". Retrieved 2012-05-11.
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