Gregg Smith, an actor and dancer whose three-decade collaboration with director and choreographer Kenny Ortega included casting dancers for such films and TV productions as Dirty Dancing, Newsies, Hocus Pocus, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar and various Oscar and Emmy specials, died Jan. 1. The San Fernando Valley resident was 73.
His death was confirmed today by Ortega. No cause of death was released.
After performing in the influential 1968 Off Broadway rock musical Your Own Thing (based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the production introduced Raul Julia to New York audiences), Smith appeared in the original national touring company of Hair and the L.A. production of Jesus Christ Superstar. He would later appear in Ortega’s Newsies and Stephen Spielberg’s Hook.
He met Ortega in the early 1970s when the two were cast in Hair, and he would subsequently cast dancers in nearly every stage, film and television production directed or choreographed by Ortega thereafter (including One from the Heart and High School Musical 3). TV Specials included The Oscars, The Emmys, The NAACP Awards, The American Music Awards, and specials for such producers as Don Mischer, Jeff Margolis, and Dick Clark.
Smith also cast concert tours, music videos, and Las Vegas productions for Cher, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Olivia Newton-John, Michael Jackson, Gloria Estefan, Paula Abdul, The Pointer Sisters, Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow.
Among the choreographers Smith assisted, in addition to Ortega, were Paula Abdul, Toni Basil, Russell Clark, Marguerite Derricks, Peggy Holmes, Liz Imperio, Jamie King, Chucky Klapow, Vince Patterson, Travis Payne, Bonnie Story and Twyla Tharp.
A statement released by a spokesperson for Ortega said Smith “championed dancers during his entire career and challenged the industry to improve working standards for dancers in film, television, concert, and music video production. His work helped to pioneer the emergence of dance agencies and the embracing of dancers by the Screen Actors Guild. Gregg was a true champion of dance and a hero of its participants.”
Smith is survived by his longtime partner, the actor and dancer D.A. Pawley; they met in Los Angeles on the set of the 1980 Francis Ford Coppola film One from the Heart.