Gregg Smith, a dancer, casting director and assistant choreographer who had a long association with director Kenny Ortega, has died. He was 73.
Smith died on Jan. 1.
The industry veteran worked as a performer in the national touring company of the musical “Hair” and in a Los Angeles production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He was in the original Off Broadway cast of “Your Own Thing” in 1968. His film work included Steven Spielberg’s “Hook” (1991) and the Ortega-directed “Newsies” (1992).
Smith worked as a dance casting director for numerous productions. He was also active as a champion of improving working standards for hoofers in all aspects of the entertainment industry. He was active in efforts to have dancers recognized as members of what was then the Screen Actors Guild.
Born in 1946, Smith grew up in a showbiz family in the San Fernando Valley. His father, Sterling Smith, worked for various studios as a still photographer. His aunt, Rae Lynn Burns, worked as a publicist from the 1940s through the ’70s.
Smith met Ortega in the early ’70s when the two were performing in “Hair.” Smith worked as a dance casting director in collaboration with Ortega (in his role as choreographer or director) on such movies as “Dirty Dancing,” “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar,” “Newsies,” “Hocus Pocus,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Pretty in Pink,” “One from the Heart” and “High School Musical 3.” The pair also teamed up on numerous TV specials, including telecasts of the Academy Awards, Emmys and American Music Awards.
Smith also helped cast dancers for concert tours, music videos and Las Vegas stage shows for such headliners as Cher, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Olivia Newton-John, Gloria Estefan, Paula Abdul, the Pointer Sisters, Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow.
Smith’s survivors include his longtime partner, actor-dancer D.A. Pawley.
Best of Variety
- Oscars 2020 Predictions: Who Will Get Nominated?
- The Best Music Books of 2019 (a Lot of Them, Anyway)
- The Best TV Performances of the Decade