On the Passing of Dancing With the Stars Judge Len Goodman … and the Return of Elegance

By Al Perrotta Published on April 24, 2023

Len Goodman, the dapper Brit who served for so many years as the lead judge on Dancing With the Stars, has passed away. Mr. Goodman was 78 and had been battling bone cancer. He had retired from the long-running show last fall to spend more time with family.

Yes, there is something campy about a reality competition where celebrities try to learn to dance. And yes, there as something a bit bogus about a dance expert of such international esteem as Mr. Goodman judging and critiquing B and C-listers like they were in Blackpool, rather than a Hollywood soundstage. Especially those celebrities who have the grace and coordination of a cement mixer.

I mean, who can forget Tucker Carlson’s appearance in season three? Thank God Carlson has the number one rated cable news show now, otherwise he’d still be best known as the “Worst Celebrity Dance Contestant in Global History.” Tucker almost did for the art of dance what that Marketing VP did to Bud Light.

A Revival of Grace

Yet Len Goodman needs to be remembered today for more than being a key and beloved character in a prime time entertainment diversion.

Before he joined Dancing With the Stars, Goodman was a judge on the British smash Strictly Come Dancing. Crucially, as the Associated Press notes in its obituary, Goodman “helped revive interest in ballroom dancing on both sides of the Atlantic.”

What a precious legacy.

In a world of twerking and lustful gyrating, and gymnastics-filled, self-absorbed contemporary dance — a world that rewards ugliness and crassness and selfishness — exposing a new corrupted generation to beauty, elegance, romance and refinement is no small feat.

Our culture has lost contact with such things. Our souls ache for such things.

We witness the ugliness of the world and then watch a gentleman in a tux and lady in flowing, glittery gown, whirl and twirl, swoop and glide as one across a polished floor. Does our heart not melt? Does our spirit not lift? Do we not wonder if the Garden of Eden came with a dance floor? 

A Yearning for Beauty

Perhaps it is fitting news of Goodman’s passing comes a day after the series finale of Sanditon, another British import that, too, inspires with beauty, elegance, romance and refinement. What viewer didn’t swoon at the show’s many ballroom scenes, swayed by the grace, the control, the respect of the characters as they danced. What a reprieve from the hook-ups and mosh pit of modern life.

My wife, a former professional dancer herself, has been watching and re-watching the three seasons of Sandition. (Okay… me too.) She even subscribed to PBS Passport so she could get an advance peek at the final episodes. Her need for beauty and simpler times to offset the outrages and dystopia of the present age is that strong.

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While we have not followed Dancing With the Stars for several years, the show was must viewing those early seasons. Rusty might as well have been the fourth judge. Heck, what viewer of the show doesn’t turn into a judge? We were on a first name basis with the erudite, if sometimes cantankerous Len. Like Rusty, there was no mistaking Len’s love of dance. That passion for the art form, particularly ballroom, was palpable through the TV. It burst through the lights, the flash, the schtick, the over-dramatization of weekly celebrity struggles, the one-liners from original host Tom Bergeron. Len’s championing of ballroom, his desire to raise the game of not just the dancers, but of the culture fueled the show’s success. 

The celebrities gave the show ratings. Len Goodman gave it meaning. 

When Goodman was bidding farewell from Dancing With the Stars, the show paid him tribute. Here Derek Hough — Goodman’s replacement as judge after starting off as one of the professional dancers — partners with Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin for a Viennese Waltz. Watch all the way through to the end … but you may want to grab a handkerchief first.

As we say goodbye to Len Goodman, and thank him for helping bring back the beauty of ballroom, I am left with one thought: We would be so better off if, rather than teach our children to be woke, we teach them to waltz.


Al Perrotta is Managing Editor of The Stream … and is married to a former professional dancer. 

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