‘It Was Just Perfect’: Dancing With The Stars Pros Jenna Johnson And Val Chmerkovskiy Reflect On Performing The Emotional Tribute To Len Goodman

In April 2023, just a few short months after leaving Dancing with the Stars, former head judge Len Goodman passed away. This was a huge punch to the gut for the dance community, and his spirit has been with DWTS ever since. The show paid tribute to the icon by introducing the Len Goodman Mirrorball Trophy, with Marvel’s Xochitl Gomez becoming the first contestant to take the prize home in December. However, the most touching moment came in October of 2023 with DWTS’s “Most Memorable Year,” a beautiful waltz performance tribute to Len Goodman featuring dancers from the show's past and present. We recently had a chance to speak to two of those performers, Val Chmerkovskiy and Jenna Johnson, who spoke at length about the “honor” of being asked to participate. 

These two dancing pros have been married since 2019, having first met on the show in 2014. Following Val’s forced dancing hiatus due to a neck injury, the two have been dancing together a lot, and getting back to moving just for the fun of it. We caught up with them at a Poor Things home video release party where they were performing Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo’s dance from the film. While it’s anything but “strictly ballroom,” the subject of Len Goodman came up, and Jenna Johnson said this:

I think the first word that comes to mind when they asked us to do it was just, ‘honored.’ You know? I think that was such a big moment for the show, for our audience, for the dance community… the big challenge was staying true to our purpose and our intention, which was to honor Len Goodman. And I think the show was very good to bring back past dancers. No one made a sound. It felt like no one breathed for 3 minutes and it was just perfect.

It was clearly an emotional experience for the two of them, having gotten close to him during their time on the show together. Prior to his passing, Val Chmerkovskiy had even called Goodman’s departure from the show “the closing of a chapter.” The performance left everyone in tears, including judges Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba, with Tonioli having shared how unprepared he was to lose Goodman.

Despite the solemn circumstances, everyone involved can agree that it was a very successful tribute. Val Chmerkovskiy expanded on Johnson’s comments, saying this:

You know, there was a lot of pressure on us to deliver something that so many important people on set were looking for. And I think we did that in the most simple way… something that Len would have loved. Simple, no nonsense.

If you haven’t been able to check out the touching tribute performance, or if you need a quick refresher, you can check it out here:

Len Goodman will be missed! But his legacy lives on, and you can feel his energy on every episode of Dancing With The Stars, which will be coming back in September as a part of the 2024 TV schedule. As for Poor Things, you can buy it on Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD as of today!

Jeff McCobb
Senior Video Producer

Jeff started his career producing television commercials in his hometown of Fresno, California. After a few years, he came across the opportunity to make a living talking about his favorite thing: movies. Jeff is a film buff who is full of gratitude that he gets to spout opinions about them for a living. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he spends his time complaining about Los Angeles.