Dancing with the Stars Head Judge Len Goodman Retires

Len Goodman goodbye to dancing with the stars.

The 78-year-old is officially stepping down from his role as head judge on the Disney+ dance competition series, PEOPLE can exclusively confirm. Goodman also shared the news during Monday’s episode of DWTPduring which he received a standing ovation from the crowd.

“When doing a live show, you have to be on top of your game and react fast. And as you get older, things start to get more challenging,” he tells PEOPLE. “I haven’t fallen asleep or started dribbling on the show yet, so I thought I’d better go before I start dribbling!”

“I will miss the California sunshine, working with my fellow judges and the camaraderie with everyone on the show,” he adds. “I will miss watching celebrities become dancers and I will miss being a part of one of the most successful shows on television.”

Goodman, a professional ballroom dancer from England, first joined DWTP as the main judge during the show’s first season in 2005. He was joined by carrie ann inaba Y bruno tonioliwho have continued to serve on the judging panel for all 31 seasons.

Len Goodman on DWTS.
Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty

At the time of the show’s inception, Goodman was working as a head judge on Strictly come dance, a british version of DWTP. Since that show was already doing well, Goodman remembers thinking DWTP It would also be a success, but not everyone was on board with the idea.

“I always had a feeling it would be a hit, as what was popular in Britain on TV at the time is usually good here and vice versa, and Strictly come dance it was already very big,” he says. “However, most Americans were convinced that no one would be interested in watching ballroom dancing and that it would fail. How wrong they were!”

DWTP it ultimately became a hit, airing on ABC for 30 seasons, before recently transitioning to Disney+ for season 31. Goodman served as a judge for the first 20 seasons before taking a hiatus for season 21. She returned to being judge in seasons 22-28, before taking a break once more in season 29. He then returned for season 30 until his retirement.

Meanwhile, Inaba and Tonioli have served as judges for all 31 seasons. Since then, the trio has been joined Derek Houghand his sister Julianne Hough he also served as a judge for several seasons.

Over the years, there have been countless memorable moments, but Goodman has a few that stand out among the rest.

george hamilton doing the Paso Doble as fox, the gay leafY jerry springer hoping to stick around long enough so she can learn to waltz at her daughter’s wedding comes to mind in an instant when I remember it,” she shares. “The time I twisted with Chubby Checker, at the show. That was fantastic, since he was my rock and roll hero.”

“When I got to do the Viennese waltz, albeit briefly, with Derek Hough’s famous partner Nastia Liukin,” he continues. “Dancing to a song sung live in the studio by Leela James [“Fall For You”] It brought back such happy memories of my past as a dancer.”

“Meeting some of the great artists that have been singing on the show, like Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Rod Stewart, Gladys Knight, to name a few…and meeting some of my sports heroes, who competed in the show or were watching in the audience, from the world of baseball, soccer, boxing, skiing, auto racing and ice skating,” he adds. “I had a lot of fun recording ‘Dance Center’ for a few years with Kenny Mayne and Jerry Rice. It always took me twice as long to record because we laughed so much.”

Len Goodman on DWTS with Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli.
ABC/Eric McCandless

Which contestants have impressed you the most?

“I have always, along with probably all viewers over the years, been impressed and inspired by those who have had to overcome their physical disabilities in order to dance. Amy Purdy, JR Martinez, to name just a couple, but there have been countless others,” he explains. “American soccer players have also always impressed me with how good they are; it’s a mystery given their size. Whereas boxers, who are light and very agile, have historically been pretty poor dancers by comparison.”

But it’s the professional dancers he believes are the “unsung heroes” of the series. “They have impressed me year after year with their hard work and dedication to their craft. How they have managed to take a non-dancer and turn them into something worthy of a show is beyond me. Everyone certainly understands a ’10 of Len!'” he says.

While he has judged dozens of celebrities across the board, Goodman notes that there is one person he wishes he had seen compete on the show: “Simon Cowell because we judges could have given him a dose of his own medicine! Or Donald Trump, as I would love to see him in Lycra.”

Reflecting on the future of the series, Goodman says he’s not sure who will take on his role, but he’s confident that only good things will come.

“[Who takes over as head judge] It’s not for me to decide, but any of the other current judges would make excellent head judges, and who knows, maybe a fourth judge will be hired to replace me,” he says. “I hope the show goes from strength to strength and that the flexibility of looking DWTP on Disney+ will allow the show to broaden its audience.”

Len Goodman in Dancing with the Stars.
Eric McCandless/ABC

Looking ahead, Goodman says he’s excited to enjoy some family time and revisit memories of DWTP‘ past.

“Retirement seems like more time to be with family and friends and enjoy the grandkids while they’re still young and don’t talk back to me!” He quips, “Over all 31 seasons, there’s been some fantastic dancing, and part of my retirement will be digging up the DVDs I’ve been lucky enough to receive over the years and reliving memories of past standout performances: the good, the bad.” bad. and the ugly”.

Ultimately, he’s just grateful for the experience, and he wants others to know it too.

“I’m sure there are a lot of people who are happy that I’m leaving, but I hope there are some who are sad too,” he says. “I’ve had a wonderful run of good fortune and I can’t thank everyone enough who helped me along the way. A big thank you to the hairstylists, make-up artists, costumers and all the team who played their part in creating this dancing with stars a great success, it has truly been a wonderful experience to be a part of. Hasta la vista baby!”

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dancing with the stars airs live Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Disney+.

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