DWTS’ heartfelt Len Goodman tribute has judges moved to tears

In a poignant and heartfelt gesture, Dancing With the Stars dedicated a special number during their Most Memorable Year week, paying homage to their forever head judge, Len Goodman.

As the lights dimmed on the DWTS stage, nostalgia took over. A cavalcade of former and current pro dancers united in harmony, delivering a dance tribute choreographed by the renowned married duo, Val Chmerkovskiy and Jenna Johnson. 

The number was a testament to Len’s enduring love for ballroom dancing, artfully set to the timeless strains of Henry Mancini’s Moon River.

The dance floor sparkled with familiar faces returning for this special tribute. Among them were Kym Herjavec, Anna Trebunskaya, Karina Smirnoff, Edyta Sliwinska, Tony Dovolani, Louis van Amstel, Maks Chmerkovskiy, and Mark Ballas. 

© Christopher Willard
Most Memorable Year. The 10 remaining couples take a moment to reminisce as they perform dances inspired by a pivotal year that held great significance in their lives.

Elevating the sentiment further, current judge Derek Hough and show host Julianne Hough seamlessly integrated themselves into the performance.

The audience was treated to a touching video montage, featuring dancers from various seasons sharing cherished memories of Len. 

Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Julianne Hough, and Bruno Tonioli on Dancing with the Stars in 2021© Getty
Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Julianne Hough, and Bruno Tonioli on Dancing with the Stars in 2021

As the dance reached its poignant climax, Len’s own voice echoed with a profound message, “All good things must come to an end.” 

The emotional impact was palpable, with judges Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli visibly moved to tears.

Carrie Ann Inaba and Len Goodman with Bruno Tonioli© Eric McCandless
Carrie Ann Inaba was great friends with Len Goodman

The loss of Len in April at the age of 78 was deeply felt across the dance community. Having served as the show’s cornerstone since its inception, his decision to retire last season marked the end of an era. 

In a touching gesture during the Season 32 premiere, cohosts Alfonso Ribiero and Julianne Hough announced that the season’s winning duo would be presented with the Len Goodman Mirrorball Trophy, immortalizing his legacy.

Terrell Owens and Cheryl Burke were partners in 2017© Eric McCandless
Terrell Owens and Cheryl Burke were partners in 2017

Notably absent from the tribute was pro dancer Cheryl Burke. Ahead of the special, Cheryl addressed fan queries on Threads, writing, “For those of you asking if I’ll be a part of Len Goodman’s tribute next week on DWTS, unfortunately, I wasn’t invited. However, I’ll be there in spirit and can’t wait to cheer my former colleagues on! Sending love and light to everyone. #RIPLen.”

But Cheryl ensured that her tribute to Goodman was heartfelt and personal. She shared a touching video on Instagram, captioning it, “There are special people who never leave us, even after they are gone. Len Goodman is one of them…” 

Overcome with emotion in the video, she expressed: “Thank you for being the face of ballroom dancing and always standing by what was right no matter what… Because of you, ballroom was brought to mainstream television. 

Thank you so much for representing us ballroom dancers and never compromising what we stood for in the ballroom community. Thank you for changing my life and bringing joy to millions who have been watching us throughout the years.”

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