• Kristyn Burtt

Sneak Peek: 'DWTS' Halloween Night Opening Number with Michael Rooney

Updated: Jun 26


Halloween Night on Dancing with the Stars brings in another guest choreographer for a spectacular opening number. Michael Rooney, known for his work on Hit the Floor and 500 Days of Summer, is taking on one of the most highly anticipated nights of the season.


Rooney is not new to DWTS having choreographed a Macy's Stars of Dance with a tribute to Busby Berkeley in Season 8 and "Life's a Happy Song" with The Muppets in Season 13. He was thrilled to be back on the show to deliver a spooky Halloween Night number.


More: 'DWTS' Disney Night: Behind-the-Scenes with Choreographer Zach Woodlee


Like Kathryn Burns and Zach Woodlee, Rooney was recruited by supervising producer Justin Mabardi and associate creative director Brooke Wendle to choreograph for the show this season. He gave Dance Dish an exclusive look at what viewers can expect on Monday's show.


"What I like about the episode is that it's character-driven. It's going to be zombies — The Walking Dead meets the haunted house meets the funhouse — it's spooky, but yet, silly. I'm having a really, really good time," he teased. "It's not a jazz number, it's more about character-driven movement.


One unique element Rooney added to his DWTS week was holding an audition for dancers. The other choreographers have hired dancers from their roster as well as using the pros and guest dancers who have worked on the show for a long time, so DWTS fans might see a few new faces this week.


More: 'Dancing With the Stars': The Magic of Kate Flannery & Pasha Pashkov


"I haven't held an audition in a long time and I wanted to see some fresh new talent — that's why I held the audition,” he said. “I do have some of my favorites on my roster, but I wanted to see who was out there because you never know. I can find a new gem of a dancer out there, so they let me have that audition and I found a couple of new champions."


In preparation for this week, Rooney worked with Mabardi and Wendle on creating the full concept for the number — from music to the overall theme.


"They were so wonderful. They told me what the tone and the feel were going to be, but they were open to suggestions," Rooney explained. "So I would springboard ideas to help them to see their creative direction. I collaborated with them and came up with a few ideas to enhance what they had already come up with."

When Dance Dish talked to Rooney last week, he was just moving into the ballroom with all 20 dancers for rehearsal. He had spent time with pro Daniella Karagach earlier that week and had high praise for the new pro.


More: Looking Back at Macy's Stars of Dance on 'Dancing with the Stars'


"I haven’t worked with the pros before, but I hear they pick up [choreography] quickly. I was working with Daniella yesterday. She's so good! She does her job, happy to be there, happy to show up. She's not a problem maker, she's a problem solver," gushed Rooney. "I love talent like that. If you want to be in this business, you have to lean into your craft. You can't even stand straight up anymore. You have to lean forward into it because you love it. You're embracing and holding onto your talent."


Rooney can't wait to share the number with all of the DWTS viewers, but he knows the pressure is on to deliver something spectacular. He knows the fan base is passionate about the show.


"Disney Week was so good and the Hollywood Week that Kat Burns did was so amazing. The pressure is really, really, really, really on," Rooney revealed. "I don't want this number to come across as silly and goofy because the show has the reputation of showing the best dancers and some of the best choreographers. I want to live up to that and pull that off in two minutes."


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