Dancing With the Stars Pros Return for Touching Tribute to Len Goodman

Len Goodman.
Media Punch/INSTARimages.com

Dancing With the Stars pulled out all the stops to honor late judge Len Goodman during its Tuesday, October 24, episode.

Former pros Maks Chmerkovskiy, Karina Smirnoff, Mark Ballas, Kym Johnson-Herjavec, Tony Dovolani, Anna Trebunskaya, Louis van Amstel and Edyta Sliwinska returned for the routine, which also featured all of the professional dancers from season 32. Current cast members Val Chmerkovskiy and Jenna Johnson choreographed the number set to Henry Mancini’s “Moon River.”

Cohost Alfonso Ribeiro introduced the tribute, noting that the Dancing With the Stars family was “shocked and saddened” by the news of Goodman’s death at age 78 in April. “Since Len will always be at the heart of this show, our pros created a special performance in his honor,” Ribeiro, 52, said.

Ahead of the moving group waltz, for which the women wore white gowns and the men wore crisp tuxedos, the performers shared their memories of Goodman via a pre-recorded video.

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“One of the things I’m most thankful for [about] being able to judge alongside Len, is I was able to spend a little bit more extra time with him,” said judge Derek Hough, tearing up.

Both Derek, 38, and his sister Julianne Hough — who is a cohost this season alongside Ribeiro — first met Goodman as children.

“I knew Len from when I was 10 years old, so this show felt like, ‘This is home, this is family,’” Julianne, 35, said during the tribute.

Other DWTS pros looked back fondly on Goodman’s ability to give tough criticism with love.

“You were gonna get the truth from Len Goodman, but he’d do it with his little twinkle,” said Johnson-Herjavec, 47. “If you weren’t doing it [right], he’d let you now,” Ballas, 37, chimed in.

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Dancing With the Stars Pros Return for Touching Tribute to Len Goodman
Disney/Eric McCandless/ABC

After the waltz honoring the late DWTS judge tribute — which concluded with an audio clip of Goodman himself saying “All good things must come to and end” — several performers, including Derek and current DWTS pros Daniella Karagach and Emma Slater, were in tears. A sobbing Bruno Tonioli stood up from his seat at the judges table to embrace his fellow judge Carrie Ann Inaba.

Goodman had served as a judge on Dancing With the Stars since its 2005 premiere. He announced his retirement from the ABC reality competition series in November 2022. The following April, he died after battling prostate cancer.

Prior to the premiere of season 32, the show renamed its prize in memory of Goodman. “The Len Goodman Mirrorball Trophy will now be lifted on Dancing With the Stars like the Vince Lombardi trophy is lifted at the Super Bowl,” executive producer Conrad Green told USA Today in September. “We wanted to make Len a permanent part of this show, to always remind people the importance he’s had to Dancing With the Stars and how much he meant to all of us.”

Green noted that the premiere was also dedicated to Goodman. “Len loves this show and will always be there, looking down on us,” he said.

Cohosts Ribeiro and Julianne briefly touched upon Goodman’s impact during the September premiere. “Though he is certainly irreplaceable, … we wanted to keep his spirit alive,” Julianne said at the time as Ribeiro pointed to the mirrorball trophy. “It’s so fantastic that Len will always be going forward with us.”

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Earlier this month, Julianne elaborated on her experience hosting the show while remembering Goodman. “This season is sure to be nostalgic and memorable, especially as we honor and give tribute to the great Len Goodman,” she exclusively told Us Weekly on October 11. “He was such a dear friend, and I’m so glad to be able to honor him and keep his spirit alive in the ballroom.”

She added: “He was such an inspiration and will always be the heart of this show.”

For season 32, Derek, Inaba, 55, and Tonioli, 67, have served as the judging panel, with Green revealing in September that the show never had plans to replace Goodman following his retirement.

“I’ve always felt Len is irreplaceable,” Green told Entertainment Weekly. “He’s such an important part of the history of the show and such an important part of the reason the show is successful [with] his honesty, his specialist ballroom knowledge and him coming genuinely from that world. His legacy of what he’s brought to the show is amazing. He’s always been that guy who’s protected ballroom dancing on the show. He will be missed terribly.”

Dancing With the Stars airs on ABC and Disney+ Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET.