At the young age of 13, Kenny began his journey in musical theater. By the time he turned 17, he had established his own civic light opera company, where he directed and choreographed full scale musical productions. And now, after six decades, music remains the driving force behind all his creative endeavors.
His success in participating in the creation of chart-topping soundtracks can be attributed to his innate understanding of the power of music. Ortega has proven himself to be a master of blending visuals, storytelling, choreography, and music to create memorable and impactful moments in film, television, video, concerts, and world stages.
His ability to discover, curate, and collaborate on songs that perfectly complement the narratives of his films have also aided in the creation of record-breaking soundtracks. The song “Time of My Life,” from “Dirty Dancing,” is a prime example of his talent for identifying music that impacts story, sells millions of soundtracks, and becomes an everlasting piece of music culture. Kenny personally chose the song from a collection of demo cassette tapes and guided the song’s vision to become the timeless Oscar award winning, enchanting legacy it is today. Kenny’s contributions to family and kids musical entertainment has impacted young people across every continent on earth, inspiring new generations of music artists, and music lovers.
Ortega’s collaborative approach is another key factor in his success. By working closely with film, tv, and theatrical composers, songwriters, and performers, he fosters an environment that encourages creativity.
His influence in the music industry has significantly benefited numerous artists. He has played a pivotal role in launching artists into the mainstream by orchestrating and producing live concert performances, live television, and music videos for renowned artists such as Miley Cyrus, Cher, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Barbara Strisand, Dianna Ross, Mick Jagger, Gloria Estefan, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan, The Pointer Sisters, KISS, The Jonas Brothers, and countless others.
Kenny Ortega’s ability to communicate universal themes has left an impact on the world. His influence on the music industry and the world has been nothing short of extraordinary, and he continues on with youthful exuberance and enthusiasm, continuing to bring people together through the power of music and storytelling.
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Kenny Ortega’s work as a director, choreographer, and producer is known and loved by millions around the world – The Quintessential Music Man. Variety Magazine’s “Billion Dollar Maestro” has touched every continent and inspired hundreds of artists to follow in his dance steps. Madonna, Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers, an endless list of today’s music elite. Kenny moved into film and television from a massively successful music video career working with artists like Fleetwood Mac, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Miami Sound Machine, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Chaka Kahn, Stevie Wonder, and The Pointer Sisters to list a few. Kenny was also the artistic director and performer in the A&M Recording artist, The Tubes, who were pioneers of emerging musical rock and theater.
As a director in film, television, theater, concerts, and special events, Kenny has had a career that spans five decades and has been the recipient of many awards, including three Emmy awards as a director and choreographer. In 2020, He was honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and received Disney’s highest accolade: the prestigious Disney Legends Award.
Kenny served as Michael Jackson’s creative partner and concert director/supervising choreographer for more than two decades. He has also worked with top artists including Oscar winners Barbra Streisand, Cher, Robert Duvall, Christian Bale, and a stable of internationally known artists that include Bette Midler, Hugh Jackman, Olivia Newton John, Patrick Swayze, Mick Jagger, along with discovering Zac Efron and helming Disney’s High School Musical franchise – one of the most successful franchises in television history and the first Television Movie Soundtrack to hit #1 on the Billboard charts. High School Musical was the biggest box office opening in Hollywood motion picture history.
Kenny began his work in film and television as Gene Kelly’s protégé, studying under his masterful tutelage where he learned Mr. Kelly’s art of designing choreography for the camera. Kenny’s first film directorial was directing and choreographing the Twist and Shout Parade Sequence for the motion picture, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Some of Kenny’s works throughout his long and illustrious career in film and television include the award-winning feature documentary “Michael Jackson’s This Is It”, “Newsies”, “Hocus Pocus”, “Dirty Dancing”, two American Olympic Opening/Closing Ceremonies, a World Cup Ceremonies, and a number of Super Bowl Halftime Shows. Steve Wynn and WET Design also called upon Kenny to choreograph the iconic Las Vegas Bellagio Fountains for the world premiere opening of The Bellagio Hotel. The Fountains have become Las Vegas’ #1 destination and hailed as the greatest public entertainment on the planet. Kenny’s Disney Channel franchise, Descendants, premiered to record numbers and his Netflix series, Julie and The Phantoms, won 3 Emmys, premiered in the Top 10 on Netflix, with its soundtrack reaching #1 on iTunes in the first weeks of release.
Ortega has been the recipient of three Emmy Awards, two Directors Guild of America Awards, The Fred & Adele Astaire Lifetime Achievement Award, Bob Fosse Award, American Choreography Lifetime Achievement Award, MTV Video Music and Movie Award, American Music Award, Billboard Award, ALMA Award, Nosotros Golden Eagle Award, Imagen Creative Achievement Award, NAACP Award, Helpmann Award (Australia’s equivalent to the Tony) as well as a number of others.