Derek Hough Says Len Goodman ‘Would’ve Loved’ Xochitl Gomez’s ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Performance

Derek Hough got emotional while praising Dancing With the Stars contestant Xochitl Gomez during the semifinals on Tuesday, November 28.

“I was thinking how important this season is, what the gravity of this season means … because this is the first time that we have the Len Goodman trophy,” Hough, 38, told Gomez, 17, after her Waltz with partner Val Chmerkovskiy to “La Vie En Rose” by Lady Gaga.

“And I’ll tell you right now, Len would’ve loved that dance,” Hough continued, as he held back tears. “That was absolutely perfect. Perfect.”

Goodman died at age 78 in April, less than one year after he retired from DWTS following season 31. He served as a judge on the reality competition series from 2005 to 2022. In September, DWTS’ grand prize, the Mirrorball Trophy, was renamed in Goodman’s honor.

Related: Len Goodman Through the Years: The ‘DWTS’ Judge’s Life in Photos

Remembering a dance legend. After achieving success as a ballroom dancer, Len Goodman found fame as a TV judge on Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing With the Stars. Goodman — who died in April 2023 at age 78, just three days shy of his 79th birthday — began his career on the dance floor at […]

“The Len Goodman Mirrorball Trophy will now be lifted on Dancing With the Stars like the Vince Lombardi trophy is lifted at the Super Bowl,” executive producer Conrad Green told USA Today at the time. “We wanted to make Len a permanent part of this show, to always remind people the importance he’s had to Dancing With the Stars and how much he meant to all of us.”

The show further celebrated Goodman’s legacy last month when former DWTS pros including Maks Chmerkovskiy, Mark Ballas and Karina Smirnoff returned for a tribute dance to the late judge set to Henry Mancini’s “Moon River.”

Ahead of the moving performance, the performers shared memories of Goodman via a pre-recorded video.

“One of the things I’m most thankful for [about] being able to judge alongside Len, is I was able to spend a little bit more extra time with him,” Hough said, getting choked up.

Related: ‘DWTS’ Judges Through the Years

The judges have spoken! Len Goodman, Carrie Ann Inaba and Bruno Tonioli have been staples on the Dancing With the Stars‘ judging table since day one — but they aren’t the only stars who’ve weighed in on the contestants’ performances. Since the show’s 2005 start the trio of judges have been joined by a variety […]

After Hough invoked Goodman while praising Gomez on Tuesday, the other judges shared similarly glowing feedback.

“There is dancing and there is artistry,” Bruno Tonioli told the actress. “You have an amazing future in front of you.”

Carrie Ann Inaba also got emotional after watching the performance. When cohost Alfonso Ribeiro reminded her to lock in her score, she apologized, saying she was “taken aback.”

Inaba, 55, then told Gomez: “You really touched my heart. It transported me to another world. I just felt like I never wanted it to end and that’s so rare after 32 seasons of watching dances and dances. That was stunning.”

Gomez was the only contestant of the night to receive perfect scores for both of her dances. At the end of Tuesday’s episode, Ribeiro, 52, and his cohost, Julianne Hough, announced which duos had made it to the finale until only Gomez and Chmerkovskiy, 37, and Ariana Madix and Pasha Pashkov remained.

“The couple dancing in the finale will be … both of you!” Ribeiro revealed.

“That’s right, no one is going home tonight,” Julianne, 35, explained. “Everyone here has made it to the finale. For the first time ever, we will see five couples dancing for the trophy.”

The Dancing With the Stars season 32 finale airs on ABC Tuesday, December 5, at 8 p.m. ET.

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