Michael Jackson will receive a 16-dancer salute on the Oct. 20 live results show of Dancing with the Stars. Executive producer Conrad Green tells PEOPLE that the show’s professional dancers have been preparing a special tribute to three of Jackson’s most iconic songs.
“A lot of our dancers were very upset when he died. He was an inspiration to them and they wanted to do something fitting to honor him,” Green says.
Jackson’s music has been featured “like 13 or 14 times during the course of the show,” he says. “This is quite personal for a lot of our dancers and our production.”
The number will be choreographed by several of the DWTS pros, including Mark Ballas, Derek Hough, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Tony Dovolani and Cheryl Burke.
In season 2, Burke and her celebrity partner Drew Lachey performed to Jackson’s “Thriller.” The routine earned Burke her first Emmy nomination for choreography. “It’s such an honor to choreograph and perform in this tribute,” Burke says. “His music and his artistry was such an inspiration to me as a dancer.”
As for which songs will be featured, Green says he wants to “keep that a surprise for our audience. They are three of his most iconic songs of his career.” Green admits that picking just three songs wasn’t easy given Jackson’s long list of hits.
“To be honest, we could do a whole show to his songs,” he says. “But we want it to be compact and memorable. It will be a heartfelt performance from our dancers.”
Jackson’s siblings, LaToya and Jermaine, have been to the show this season, and DWTS singer Darryl Phinnessee worked with Jackson and performed at his July 7 memorial. “We have a lot of crossover with that know him, that worked with him, and were inspired for him,” Green says, “and we hope to give a tribute that is fitting.” –Monica RizzoJeff Kravitz/FilmMagic; Splash News Online