After 31 seasons of critiquing dance techniques alongside his fellow judges, Len Goodman is set to hold up his final paddle in next week’s Dancing With the Stars finale. TV Insider chatted with the pro dancers who competed in the semi-finals to get their reactions on this historic news.
“I’ve known Len since I was born,” says Mark Ballas, who made his DWTS debut in Season 5 back in 2007. “He used to train my parents [Corky Ballas and Shirley Ballas]. I think there’s a photo somewhere of him holding me when I was two or three-years-old. He’s tough, honest, and someone who strives for giving constructive criticism. He’s a legend.”
“It got me in the ‘feels,’” shared Emma Slater, who says that Goodman’s announcement caught her off guard. Like Ballas, her history with Goodman pre-dates DWTS. “Len used to judge me back in England. He’s a British icon. He’d mark me to win when I competed. I’d go up to thank him back then, and I went to him tonight, 20 years later, to thank him again. I cried my eyes out. I didn’t expect to feel this emotional.”
“I was genuinely sad,” Valentin Chmerkovskiy says. “It feels like a chapter is closing. It’s made me realize that time has flown by so fast. It’s the inevitable reality for all of us. Len’s announcement has put me in a place of gratitude. It made me realize what’s important. To be a part of this ballroom is a fleeting opportunity.”
“Len has judged [the] Blackpool Dance Festival in England,” notes Gleb Savchenko. “That’s one of the biggest ballroom dance festivals. Only the top dancers go there and win. I’ll miss Len so much. He is the heart of this ballroom. He’s going to be missed so much because he’s been an authentic, legitimate, ballroom dancer himself.
“I understand that he wants to go back to his family [in England] and spend time with them,” Savchenko adds.
Goodman is going to be missed by all, including newer dancer pros like Britt Stewart. “Len is legendary,” she says. “He’ll be missed. He’s the ‘tough’ judge so we’ll see who takes that role.”
Of course, it’s too soon to say who’ll be filling Goodman’s spot at the judge’s table – if indeed anyone does. The show will still have three judges as Derek Hough has been added to the panel that includes Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli. “It’s a little early,” Stewart agrees, adding that the spot could be filled with rotating judges for a while before a final one would be chosen.
One dance pro who’s not ready to assume a judging spot full time just yet is Chmerkovskiy. “I’ll be completely honest – and I hope I’m not missing out on a future opportunity – but I still want to dance,” he says. “I judged Dancing With the Stars: Juniors [in 2018], and I loved the idea of talking to kids and motivating them, but that was a huge responsibility. Maybe it’s different if you’re judging adults? I’m sure it would be, but I wasn’t entirely in my groove [judging DWTS: Juniors]. I’m not rushing to get there just yet.”
Not only will Goodman’s expertise be missed in the ballroom but so will his smile, his trademark wit, and tough comments that earned him the affectionate handle “Grumpy Goodman.” He never faltered from his position or lowered his standards.
“What you see with Len is what you get,” says Ballas. “And I love that.”
Dancing With the Stars, Season 31 Finale, Monday, November 21, 8/7c, Disney+