Kenny Ortega Biography

Kenny Ortega photo

Born: April 18, 1950


Date of Birth: April 18, 1950

Kenny Ortega credits teen movie legend John Hughes with giving him his first big break—choreographing and working as second unit director in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). As a choreographer, he's worked on many hit movies, including Pretty in Pink (1986) and Dirty Dancing (1987). Moving into the director's chair while continuing to choreograph, Ortega worked with a very young Christian Bale in Newsies (1992).

So when Disney was looking for a director/choreographer for their new TV movie, High School Musical (2006), Ortega—who in the meantime had won two Emmys for directing/choreographing the 2002 Winter Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies—was a natural choice.

The cast was filled with fresh faces, the story was charming and the song-and-dance numbers were catchy beyond belief. The movie became Disney's Channel's highest rated project ever when it debuted, and viewers doubled for High School Musical 2's television premiere the following year. The movies were so successful that Disney decided to release a third one, High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008), to theaters.

For his work on the first HSM Ortega won a prestigious Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children's Programs, and an Emmy for Outstanding Choreography.

Ortega enjoyed working with the young cast and watching them progress over the years, and he admitted that he's not quite ready to let them all go. He's currently working on a remake of Footloose, starring HSM heartthrob Zac Efron, to be released in 2010.

Other projects Ortega has worked on include the sold-out stage production Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour, High School Musical: The Ice Tour and High School Musical: The Concert, as well as the highly-rated Disney Channel movie The Cheetah Girls (2006). He was working with Michael Jackson on a comeback series of concerts in London when the singer passed away in 2009. The rehearsals, some of which were filmed, were released in a film called Michael Jackson's This Is It in October 2009.

Filmography (director):

Michael Jackson's This Is It(2009)
High School Musical 3: Senior Year(2008)
Hocus Pocus(1993)
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