2012 Entertainer of the Year
Director, Choreographer & Producer of such projects as
MICHAEL JACKSON'S THIS IS IT,
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL
& DIRTY DANCING
& DIRTY DANCING
Mr Ortega received this award during our
31st Anniversary National Finals Gala
on July 10, 2012 at the
Renaissance Orlando at Sea World.
Kenny Ortega’s work as a director, choreographer and producer is known and loved by millions around the world.
Ortega has been the recipient of three Emmy Awards, back to back nominations and a DGA Award from the Director’s Guild of America, Fred & Adele Astaire’s annual Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award, Ilka Award, St. Jude’s Pioneer Award, Imagen Creative Achievement Award, an American Choreography Lifetime Achievement Award, MTV Video Music Award, ALMA Award, Nosotros Golden Eagle Award, Bob Fosse Award, as well as a number of others.
For over two decades, Ortega was Michael Jackson’s director and creative partner. He directed both the “Dangerous” and “HIStory” world tours in the 1990’s and numerous videos and shows for Jackson. Their creative partnership came to an abrupt end as they were working together on what was to be their greatest effort to date. Jackson’s untimely death, just as he was to embark on an unprecedented 50 sold-out concerts engagement at London’s O2 Arena, brought the production and the world to a stunned halt. Left with over 100 hours of rehearsal footage, Ortega along with his close collaborators, musical director Michael Bearden and choreographer Travis Payne, assembled a two-hour feature film celebrating Jackson’s talent that shows his fans what he was working on at the time of his passing. “Michael Jackson’s This Is It,” released on October 28, 2009 by Sony Pictures received an overwhelmingly positive response worldwide and has grossed over $250 million to date.
A Redwood City, California native, Ortega began his career at age 13 performing in area plays until eventually landing a leading role in the original
When Ortega made the transition from stage choreography to film choreography, he had the honor 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 the art of designing choreography for the camera. Ortega’s film choreography includes "Dirty Dancing," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Pretty in Pink" and "St. Elmo's Fire" as well as many others.
Kenny directed Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” and “High School Musical 2” which were both the most successful Disney Channel Original Movies to date when they premiered. “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 another Emmy win for choreography. Kenny is also the executive 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 is Executive Producer, as well as Director of the National Arena Tour and International Stadium Tours of “High School Musical.” 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.
In network television, two of Ortega’s Emmy wins were for his work directing and choreographing the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics Opening and Closing Ceremonies. In episodics he has served as director on "Gilmore Girls,” "Ally McBeal," "Chicago Hope", “Bunheads”, “The Playboy Club”, and "Grounded for Life," which garnered him an additional Emmy nomination.
Ortega has collaborated on numerous theatrical and large-scale outdoor spectacles. In the Summer of 2007 he directed and choreographed Hugh Jackman in the record-breaking “The Boy From Oz Arena Tour” in Australia. In Las Vegas, Kenny is the artistic director for "The Lake of Dreams" at the Wynn Hotel, as well as co-producing the grand openings of Wynn Las Vegas, Bellagio and Wynn Macau (China) with Steve and Elaine Wynn. Prior to this, Kenny had designed choreographed the original choreography dancing for the Bellagio Fountains outside the Bellagio Hotel, as well as several other productions at various resort properties over the years. Kenny also produced the Grand Opening of the Wynn’s “Encore” hotel and casino in conjunction with Steve Wynn’s birthday.
Most recently, Ortega directed The Rocky Horror Picture Show tribute at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. The tribute was produced by Lou Adler and Kevin Duncan. Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Billy Idol, Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison were some of the talent whom Kenny directed for this one-night-only live event. The evening benefited the Painted Turtle , an organization that provides children throughout California who suffer from chronic and life-threatening illnesses the opportunity to rediscover the ordinary joys of being a child through a year-round camp and hospital outreach programs.