‘DWTS’ pros react to judge Len Goodman’s retirement

“Dancing With the Stars” won’t be the same without Len Goodman.

The head judge shockingly announced during Monday’s “Semi-Finals” that Season 31 of the dance competition show – which concludes next week – will be his last, as he’s retiring to “spend more time” with his children and family.

“It got me in my feels, if I’m honest. It caught me off guard. I didn’t expect to feel as emotional as I was,” pro dancer Emma Slater, who is from the UK like Goodman, told Page Six in the ballroom following her and Trevor Donovan’s elimination.

“Len, I’ve known him since I was 10 years old. He would judge competitions [in England] and he would always want me to win,” she continued.

“I went to every competition that he judged and my parents were elated every time he was on the panel. I remember going up to him as a kid and thanking him for believing in me. Twenty years later, I did the same thing tonight … and I cried my eyes out again.”

It’s unclear whether production will replace Goodman’s seat at the judges table – currently alongside Carrie Ann Inaba, Derek Hough and Bruno Tonioli – but Slater said she’s “always” down to “welcome more” people into the “DWTS” family.

“I think Len would also want that. I also am a big believer in respecting what people have done, but then embracing new personalities and making way for people that would shine just as much,” she explained. “So I think [let’s] pave the way for somebody to make Len proud and have the show just embrace somebody new as well.”

Slater, who was paired with actor Trevor Donovan this season, told Page Six she “cried” while speaking to Goodman Monday night.

ABC/Raymond Liu

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Slater, who was paired with actor Trevor Donovan this season, told Page Six she “cried” while speaking to Goodman Monday night.

ABC/Raymond Liu

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Calling Goodman “a legend,” fellow pro Gleb Savchenko said it’s going to be sad competing without his feedback, as he’s “the heart” of the ballroom.

“All of the critiques and all of the little points that he always said to us, we all took on board and we all worked on it because he is the representation of ballroom dance,” he said of the former Blackpool Dance Festival champion.

“So for him leaving the show, it’s heartbreaking. I got emotional just hearing it. We just all love Len so, so much, and not having him, it’ll be a missing piece.”

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Shangela’s pro partner, Gleb Savchenko, called Goodman’s retirement news “heartbreaking.”

ABC/Raymond Liu

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Shangela’s pro partner, Gleb Savchenko, called Goodman’s retirement news “heartbreaking.”

ABC/Raymond Liu

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Two-time mirrorball champion Val Chmerkovskiy spoke similar sentiments, telling Page Six he was “genuinely sad” about the retirement news.

“It feels like a chapter closing,” he said. “I started thinking, like, ‘Well, if this time has flown by so fast for him, it’s flown by so fast for me as well.’ That’s kind of the inevitable reality for all of us. So, it really put me in a place of appreciation and gratitude.”

As for whether he’d be down to fill the judging role next season if the opportunity presented itself?

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Val Chmerkovskiy, who is a Season 31 finalist with Gabby Windey, admitted the show won’t be the same without Goodman.

ABC/Raymond Liu

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Val Chmerkovskiy, who is a Season 31 finalist with Gabby Windey, admitted the show won’t be the same without Goodman.

ABC/Raymond Liu

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“Yeah, I would love to, I would. I will be completely honest, and I hope I’m not missing my future opportunity, but I still want to dance [right now],” hey admitted. “I got the chance to judge ‘Dancing With the Stars: Juniors’ and I loved the opportunity to talk to kids, inspire them and give them feedback … but that was a huge responsibility.”

He added, “I don’t know if it’s different when you’re judging adults, I’m sure it is, but I wasn’t entirely in my groove in that. I wanted to dance, I felt kind of uncomfortable giving criticism in such a vulnerable situation. So, I don’t envy that job! I’m not rushing to get there just yet.”

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Daniel Durant’s dance partner, Britt Stewart, told us she’d love to see fellow pro Cheryl Burke fill Goodman’s shoes.

ABC/Raymond Liu

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Daniel Durant’s dance partner, Britt Stewart, told us she’d love to see fellow pro Cheryl Burke fill Goodman’s shoes.

ABC/Raymond Liu

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One per dancer who has voiced her desire to be a part of the judging panel in recent years is Cheryl Burke. The “Burke in the Game” podcast host has competed on the show for 25 seasons, most recently with Sam Champion.

“Cheryl definitely wants to be a judge and I think that she would be an amazing addition,” gushed Britt Stewart, who was eliminated with Daniel Durant on Monday. “I think that Derek is a testament to a past pro becoming a judge. He really has the knowledge and he has the experience of what it’s like to be in our shoes.”

Burke has been vocal about wanting to judge “DWTS” in recent years.
ABC

Stewart added that Goodman has been notoriously “so tough” on everybody who competes over the years, so it will be “interesting” to see who ultimately “takes on that role” as “the hard judge” after his exit.

“I am a Cheryl fan all day long,” she added of the “Dance Moms” alum. “I would love to see her in that position.”

A photo of Len Goodman on “DWTS”
The longtime judge has been on the show since Season 1.
ABC via Getty Images

Goodman, 78, announced his departure mid-way through Monday night’s show, telling viewers, “Whilst we all are getting excited and looking forward so much to the finale next week, it would also be with a touch of sadness and this will be my last season judging on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’”

Noting that it’s been “a huge pleasure” to have judged the competition series “since it started” in 2005, he added, “I’m looking forward so much to next week’s finale. I’m sure it’s going to be absolutely brilliant.”

The Season 31 finale of “Dancing With the Stars” – featuring celebrity finalists Charli D’Amelio, Gabby Windey, Shangela and Wayne Brady – airs next Monday at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT on Disney+.

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