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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

A colourful career: Kenny Ortega's biography

We take a look through choreographer Kenny Ortega's spectacular career

Jennifer Gray and Patrick Swazye in Dirty Dancing. REX / Shutterstock
Jennifer Gray and Patrick Swazye in Dirty Dancing. REX / Shutterstock

1950: Kenny Ortega is born on April 18 to factory worker Octavio and waitress Madeline Ortega, in Palo Alto, California. He loves music and dance from a young age and even becomes a cheerleader at school. He spends his teenage years and 20s working as a jobbing dancer and choreographer

1980: His big break comes when he lands the role of choreographer on Xanadu, starring Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton-John. Kelly becomes

Ortega’s mentor

1982-1986: Establishes himself as a choreographer on hit teen movies such as Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

A scene from Pretty in Pink. REX / Shutterstock
A scene from Pretty in Pink. REX / Shutterstock

1987: Choreographer on the cult classic Dirty Dancing – his place in film history is assured as the movie becomes a smash hit that is still revered by fans today

1988: Makes his debut as a director on the TV series adaptation of Dirty Dancing. Goes on to direct/ choreograph on TV shows including Ally McBeal (2001-02), left, and Gilmore Girls (2002-06), and films including Hocus Pocus (1993)

1992: First works with Michael Jackson on his Dangerous world tour, right. Works with the star on another two world tours – 1996’s HIStory and 2009’s ill-fated This Is It tour

Michael Jackson performing on stage - Dangerous Tour. Peter Still/Redferns / Getty Images
Michael Jackson performing on stage - Dangerous Tour. Peter Still/Redferns / Getty Images

1996: Choreograph his first Olympics opening ceremony, in Atlanta. A spectacular that featured the likes of Muhammad Ali and Celine Dion, as well as choirs, orchestras and local talents.

2006: Directs the first of the smash-hit High School Musical series, right, for the Disney Channel. Returns to the director’s chair for the sequel the following year. The film launches Zac Efron into stardom

A scene from High School Musical 3. Courtesy REX / Shutterstock
A scene from High School Musical 3. Courtesy REX / Shutterstock

2008: Collects an American Latino Media Arts Special Achievement Award as Outstanding Director

2015: Reunites with the Disney Channel for Descendants, which follows the adventures of the children of popular Disney villains such as

Maleficent and Aladdin‘s Jafar

2017: Back in the director’s chair for Descendants 2

Read more: Kenny Ortega on working with Michael Jackson and choreographing Dirty Dancing

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