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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.

Life & Career[]

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. His grandparents were from Spain. 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).

In addition, Ortega has directed and choreographed High School Musical, High School Musical 2, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, and was the 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.

In May 2009, Ortega began work on the scheduled Michael Jackson 50-date This Is It concerts, which was canceled subsequent to Jackson's sudden death. 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. 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. Ortega is now set to direct the upcoming movie adaptation of the Broadway musical In the Heights.

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.

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 on July 31, 2015.


  • Descendants (director, choreographer, executive producer)
  • Descendants 2 (director, choreographer, executive producer)
  • Descendants 3 (director, choreographer, executive producer)
  • Julie and the Phantoms (director, choreographer, executive producer)
  • High School Musical 3 (director, choreographer, executive producer)
  • High School Musical 2 (director, choreographer, co-producer)
  • The Cheetah Girls 2 (director)
  • High School Musical (director, choreographer)
  • Hocus Pocus (director)
  • Hocus Pocus: Begin the Magic (director)
  • Newsies (director, choreographer)
  • Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert (stage director: concert produced & conceived by, producer)
  • High School Musical: The Concert (choreographer, concert creator, concert producer and producer)
  • Mickey's 60th Birthday (choreographer)
  • Totally Minnie (choreographer)


  • He was an executive producer on the Netflix series Julie and the Phantoms, which stars Descendants actors Jadah Marie (Celia Facilier), Cheyenne Jackson (Hades) and Booboo Stewart (Jay).
  • Has worked with Michael Jackson, Madonna, Cher, Gloria Estefan, and Elton John.
  • As of 2007, he has directed three out of the four successful Disney Channel Original Movies with High School Musical (2006), The Cheetah Girls 2 (2006), and High School Musical 2 (2007).
  • On set, if he catches an actor or actress yawning, he forces them to pay him a dollar. After production, he donates all the proceeds to "The Make a Wish Foundation".
  • Longtime personal friend and choreographer to both Michael Jackson and Josh Carmichael.
  • He is of Spanish descent.
  • Directed, choreographed and performed in Music videos as well.
  • Was interviewed once by Craig Mclean who works for the UK Magazize "The Times Magazine".
  • Alternate name is Kenneth Ortega.
  • Star sign is Aries.
  • Won 12 awards (including 3 Primetime Emmys).
  • Has been nominated 21 times.
  • His other roles include being an actor, writer, second unit director, music performer, stage designer, guest judge, interviewee, and tour director.
  • Ortega is openly gay, and in a 2014 interview with anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution, he said that "as a gay man having grown up in the 50s and 60s, I have to say, I'm very proud of the industry that I work in," referring to the acceptance of people with different sexual orientations in show business.