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Kenny Ortega receives star on Walk of Fame

HOLLYWOOD — A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was unveiled July 24 honoring Kenny Ortega, best known for directing and choreographing the three “High School Musical” movies.

Jennifer Grey, Kathy Najimy and Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer of Disney Channels Worldwide, were among those joining Ortega at the ceremony next to the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

Ortega choreographed “Dirty Dancing,” which co-starred Grey. Najimy appeared in two films Ortega directed, “Hocus Pocus” and “A Change of Heart,” and the first “Descendants” made-for-television movie.

The ceremony was held nine days before the premiere of “Descendants 3,” which Ortega directed and choreographed, on Disney Channel.

“This has been one of the most surreal experiences of my life, and my life is surreal,” Ortega said during the ceremony.

He praised the location of his star by the Pantages Theatre, saying, “I get to have my name live under the lights of this glorious marquee.”

But he dedicated much of his speech to praise Cameron Boyce, the “Descendants” actor who died earlier this month at age 20. Boyce’s father, Victor, and sister Maya attended the ceremony.

“His all-too-brief appearance in this life inspired me beyond words, and many of us here and generations of kids and families all over this world,” Ortega said. “His extraordinary talent and loving heart will be remembered through his foundation. The foundation is called the Cameron Boyce Foundation and has been set up by his family to remember Cameron by continuing his pursuit to make positive change in the world.

Cameron said we can’t take it with us, so it’s about what you leave. With this, I promise Cameron that I will carry this goodness with me in all the days of my life,” he said.   

Ortega received outstanding choreography Emmys for the 2002 Winter Olympics opening ceremony and “High School Musical” and for outstanding directing for a variety, music or comedy program for the 2002 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

Ortega won a Directors Guild of America Award for outstanding directing of children’s programming for “High School Musical.”

Ortega began his career in the mid-1970s by choreographing stage shows for the San Francisco-based rock band The Tubes. The first movie he choreographed was the 1980 musical “Xanadu,” on which he worked with Gene Kelly.

Ortega also choreographed such films as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “Pretty in Pink.”

During his career, he also worked with some of the biggest names in music, doing choreography for Madonna, Michael Jackson and Cher.

Ortega, who worked with Jackson on his “Dangerous” and “HIStory” tours, was working on the singer’s planned “This Is It” concerts in 2009 when Jackson died. He subsequently directed the film “Michael Jackson’s This Is It,” a compilation of rehearsal footage filmed during the singer’s preparation for the shows.