“So You Think You Can Dance” is a reality show where would-be professional dancers perform, viewers vote, and judges judge. If you like dance, you’ll love the show. And like most Reality TV, we can learn interesting things about people.
One night, I tuned in late, and I didn’t recognize the guest judge. It was this sixty-ish man named Kenny. When Kenny spoke, the dancers were sitting on every word. And when he complemented a contestant or one of the choreographers, the dancer became emotional and thanked Kenny profusely. The reaction was far beyond how they reacted to others (like the esteemed Jessie Tyler Ferguson.) Who was this guy?
His name is Kenny Ortega. And??? It still meant nothing to me. I looked Kenny Ortega: up on Wikipedia:
Initially known for working with dancer and choreographer Gene Kelly on the film Xanadu, Ortega went on to choreograph the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, and has won awards for choreography in music videos, such as Madonna’s “Material Girl”.
Together with Michael Jackson, he created and designed the Dangerous World Tour 1992-1993 and the HIStory World Tour 1996-1997. He has also choreographed events ranging from Super Bowl XXX, the 72nd Academy Awards, the 1996 Summer Olympics (Atlanta) and the 2002 Winter Olympics(Salt Lake City).
The list of achievements and accolades went on and on. Ok, this dude is a dance god, but to the average person like me, he is unknown. He is Anonymously Excellent––supremely respected by people in his field, but largely unknown to everyone else.
I wonder what it’s like to be Kenny Ortega? Is he happy and satisfied with the enjoyment of the craft, and the recognition he gets from people in the dance and entertainment world? Or, does he wish to become a household name like Patrick Swayze? Swayze’s achievements as an actor are nothing compared to Ortega’s achievements as a choreographer. I have no idea if Ortega lives a happy, satisfied existence, or if he is tormented by feelings of inadequacy.
How many Kenny Ortega’s are out there, people who are fantastic at what they do, but anonymous outside of their field. I can think of many people I used to work with who were great at their job, and were unrecognized by management. I don’t mean recognition like getting an award at the company meeting. I mean management didn’t know what they did. But their peers and people in the know would jump at the chance to work with them.
Across the world, there are millions of people who are Anonymously Excellent. The question to think about is this: How much recognition do you really need? Surely someone knows how hard you work, and realizes how good you are at your job. And those close to you will like you now matter what you do or don’t accomplish.
If you don’t feel good about yourself with the recognition you currently have, no amount of additional recognition will make you feel better.