It used to be shown in elementary schools. One of the best short length Halloween animations ever created (in 1980s :).
According to legend, "Death" appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance their dance of death for him while he plays his fiddlerepresented by a solo violin with its E-string tuned to an E-flat in an example of scordatura tuning. His skeletons dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.
The piece opens with a harp playing a single note, D, twelve times (the twelve strokes of midnight) which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section. This then leads to the E flat and A chords also known as a tritone or the "Devil's chord", and the solo violin's E string is tuned a half step lower to create this effect played by a solo violinist, which represents death. After which the main theme is heard on a solo flute and is followed by a descending scale on the solo violin which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section, particularly the lower instruments of the string section, followed by the full orchestra who then joins in on the descending scale. The main theme and the scale is then heard throughout the various sections of the orchestra until it breaks to the solo violin and the harp playing the scale. The piece becomes more energetic and climaxes with the full orchestra playing very strong dynamics. Towards the end of the piece, there is another violin solo, now in modulation, which is then joined by the rest of the orchestra. The final section represents the dawn breaking (a cockerel's crow, represented by the oboe) and the skeletons returning to their graves.
When Danse macabre first premiered, it was not received well. Audiences were quite unsettled by the disturbing, yet innovative,[dubious ] sounds that Saint-Saëns elicited. Shortly after the premiere, it was transcribed into a piano arrangement by Franz Liszt (S.555), a good friend of Saint-Saëns. It was again later transcribed into a popular piano arrangement by virtuoso pianist Vladimir Horowitz. The pipe organ transcription by Lemare is also popular.
Eventually, the piece was used in dance recitals, particularly those of Anna Pavlova.