Kenny Ortega began his career as an Actor at the age of 13 performing in San Francisco Bay Area theater. At 18, Kenny landed a leading role in the original San Francisco and National Touring Productions of the Musical, HAIR. In the 1980s, he became known for his stage direction and choreography of the A&M pioneer recording artists, The TUBES. It was a TUBES performance in Los Angeles that caught the attention of Cher who asked Ortega to choreograph her television special. Soon, Ortega became one of the most sought after Choreographers for the industry’s biggest musical artists, including Madonna, Fleetwod Mac, Kiss, Gloria Estefan, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Bette Midler, Cher, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, and The Pointer Sisters, to name a few. When Ortega made the transition from stage choreography to film choreography, he had the honor and privilege of working with the legendary Gene Kelly on the feature film XANADU and then again on Francis Ford Coppola’s , ONE FROM THE HEART. Kelly soon became Ortega’s mentor and taught him his technique of designing choreography for the camera.
Ortega’s other film choreography includes DIRTY DANCING, ST. ELMO’S FIRE, and following his work with John Hugh’s on PRETTY IN PINK, John made him the choreographer and 2nd Unit Director of the classic parade sequence for FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. This began his directing career. In the 1990’s, Ortega directed the musical film NEWSIES, starring Christian Bale, Robert Duvall, and Ann Margaret and feature film HOCUS POCUS, starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, for the Walt Disney Company. Ortega directed many television series during the following three decades including CHICAGO HOPE, ALLY MCBEAL, and THE GILMORE GIRLS. He is also co choreographed and directed the 1996 Atlanta OLYMPIC Opening and Closing Ceremonies and both choreographed and co directed the 2002 Salt Lake Winter OLYMPIC Ceremonies and Live Broadcast.
In 2006, he directed Disney Channel’s “HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL” and “HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 2”. “High School Musical 2” drew over 17 million viewers when it premiered making it the most watched program in cable telecast history (and still is). Together “High School Musical” 1 and 2 have been seen by over 250 million people worldwide and both movies have broken numerous sales records for their soundtracks and DVDs. Ortega received a DGA and another Emmy win for choreography. He is also the supervising producer for both of the movie’s multi-platinum soundtracks. “High School Musical” also spawned a 3-company international touring ice show of which Kenny was supervising Producer, as well as the Director of the National Arena Tour and International Stadium Tours.
In Fall of 2007, Kenny directed the fastest-selling concert tour in history, the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus “Best of Both Worlds Tour” featuring The Jonas Bros. In 2008 Kenny directed and executive produced HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR (HSM 3) for Walt Disney Motion Pictures. HSM 3 was the biggest theatrical box office opening for a musical in history. Kenny was Michael Jackson’s director and creative partner for “Dangerous”, “HIStory”, and “This Is It” World Tours. Following Jackson’s untimely passing, Kenny directed the documentary “Michael Jackson’s This Is It”. In 2014, Kenny directed and produced along with his longtime friend and associate Emilio Estefan, A CHANGE OF HEART, an independent feature shot on location in South Florida. The film stars Jim Belushi, Virginia Madsen, Kathy Najimy, William Levy, Gloria Estefan and is awaiting release. Ortega executive produced, directed, and co choreographed the Internationally Successful Action Adventure Musical Disney’s DESCENDANTS for which he was honored with his second DGA Award.
Kenny’s reimagining of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, a Fox Network Movie Event, will be premiering Halloween 2016. It stars Laverne Cox (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK) in the role of Dr. Frank N. Furter, originated by Tim Curry. Tim returns to this production playing the role of the Criminologist. Adam Lambert and Tony Award Winning Actress, Annaleigh Ashford are also featured. Currently, Kenny is excited to be filming DESCENDANTS 2 for The Disney Channel.
Among Ortega’s Awards are, three Emmys Awards, two DGA Awards from the Director’s Guild of America, a Fred & Adele Astaire’s annual Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award, a Bob Fosse Award, an American Choreography Lifetime Achievement Award, an MTV Video Music Award, American Music Award, ALMA Award, Nosotros Golden Eagle Award, Imagen Creative Achievement Award and an NAACP Award.