Home Entertainment Strictly’s Flavia Cacace and AJ Pritchard pay tribute to Len Goodman

Strictly’s Flavia Cacace and AJ Pritchard pay tribute to Len Goodman

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Former Strictly Come Dancing professionals Flavia Cacace and AJ Pritchard have paid tribute to Len Goodman after it was announced he’d died at the age of 78 on Monday.

The former judge of the BBC ballroom dance contest, who also appeared on the American equivalent Dancing With The Stars, died after a secret battle with bone cancer.

He passed away peacefully in a hospice in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on Saturday, with his family by his side.

Italian professional dancer Flavia, 43, who appeared on Strictly between 2006 and 2012, and AJ, 28, who was on the show from 2016 to 2019, spoke of their fond memories of Len during while chatting to Vanessa Feltz on Talk TV on Monday.

Flavia, who is married to actor Jimi Mistry, who she was partnered with on Strictly in 2010, said: ‘It was an absolute shock this morning – my husband mentioned it to me and I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know he was unwell so it does come as a complete shock…

Farewell: Former Strictly Come Dancing professionals Flavia Cacace (pictured) and AJ Pritchard paid tribute to Len Goodman after it was announced he'd died at the age of 78

Farewell: Former Strictly Come Dancing professionals Flavia Cacace (pictured) and AJ Pritchard paid tribute to Len Goodman after it was announced he’d died at the age of 78

Twinkle-toed star: Former Strictly judge Len, who also appeared on the American show Dancing With The Stars, died after a battle with bone cancer, it was announced on Monday (pictured in 2014)

Twinkle-toed star: Former Strictly judge Len, who also appeared on the American show Dancing With The Stars, died after a battle with bone cancer, it was announced on Monday (pictured in 2014)

‘He was very respected in the ballroom world as a competitor and an adjudicator, but he also that this incredible charisma for the showbiz side of things and I think that’s what made it such a success, was that he was able to bring the two worlds together and thank goodness he was part of Strictly from the beginning, because without him, it would’ve been very different. 

‘He was just the perfect match for the show. He plays a very big role in the show being what it is I think.

On Len’s dedication to precision on the dancefloor, she added: ‘He was straight to the point, but I think every dancer respected him. 

‘I remember when I used to stand there and wait for the comments, he was always the one that if you got a good comment or if you got a 10 off Len, it would make your week because you knew it was coming from somebody who was an expert in that field and he always said the truth. 

‘It was always, what he saw he said, he didn’t hold back and sometimes when it wasn’t positive, it would really hit you because you knew it was coming from him. 

‘But he was always very positive, he was wonderful on and off the dancefloor, very friendly, very down to earth, just a lovely lovely man.’

Referring to Len’s overzealous announcements of his scores for the famous contestants on Strictly, AJ began: ‘I can’t even say the number seven a normal way anymore, it has to be a “SEVEN”, and to think that one person can honestly have changed the perception of ballroom and Latin dance, from the sequins, the fake tan.

‘At the beginning it was like, “Yeah, yeah, I’m a dancer,” kind of proud of it internally but maybe not externally, and then Len, Strictly Come Dancing, he is that magic recipe that made ballroom and Latin what it is today, and to be proud to say, “I am a ballroom and Latin dancer.” It’s hard work but we have a good time for sure.

Looking back: Dancer Flavia, 43, who appeared on Strictly between 2006 and 2012, and AJ, 28 (right), who was on the show from 2016 to 2019, spoke of their fond memories of Len (Flavia and AJ spoke to Vanessa Feltz, left, on Talk TV)

Looking back: Dancer Flavia, 43, who appeared on Strictly between 2006 and 2012, and AJ, 28 (right), who was on the show from 2016 to 2019, spoke of their fond memories of Len (Flavia and AJ spoke to Vanessa Feltz, left, on Talk TV)

Respected: AJ said Len was known for offering valuable constructive criticism and was always encouraging to his fellow dancers (AJ is seen with Saffron Barker on the 2019 series)

Respected: AJ said Len was known for offering valuable constructive criticism and was always encouraging to his fellow dancers (AJ is seen with Saffron Barker on the 2019 series)

Sad news: Flavia, who is married to actor Jimi Mistry, who she was partnered with on Strictly in 2010, said it was her husband who told her of Len's death (Flavia and Jimi seen on Strictly in 2010)

Sad news: Flavia, who is married to actor Jimi Mistry, who she was partnered with on Strictly in 2010, said it was her husband who told her of Len’s death (Flavia and Jimi seen on Strictly in 2010)

Host Vanessa, who herself appeared on Strictly Come Dancing as a contestant on series 11 in 2013 when she was paired with former show professional James Jordan.

Vanessa spoke of Len’s ‘exacting standards’, recalling how she was sure to listen to Len if he told her she needed to improve.

AJ continued: ‘He was straight to the point. He was a true ballroom and Latin dancer. 

‘He said it as it is and he did not worry about what anybody else was going to say. 

‘From his phrases, to “pickle my walnuts,” whatever he said, it was always a constructive criticism, and even if it was like a dog’s dinner and somebody’s fallen over, and it’s all gone wrong, he would still give you that motivation to get up. 

‘He just made it feel like it was you and him in the room. There wasn’t 12million people watching at home, or even if you were just that person sat at home, you felt like it was just him and you, giving that lust for life, and that’s the thing with Len. 

‘He was doing Strictly in the UK and in America at the same time, flying back and forward, he had such energy that it was unbelievable.’ 

Len died at a hospice in Tunbridge Wells, Kent on Saturday surrounded by his  family after a battle with bone cancer.

Character: Referring to Len's overzealous announcements of his scores for the famous contestants on Strictly, AJ said: 'I can't even say the number seven a normal way anymore' (Len pictured in 2010)

Character: Referring to Len’s overzealous announcements of his scores for the famous contestants on Strictly, AJ said: ‘I can’t even say the number seven a normal way anymore’ (Len pictured in 2010)

A spokeswoman for the star told MailOnline: ‘I can confirm he died peacefully over the weekend surrounded by his family.’

Len was a much-loved judge on Strictly after joining the show when it launched in 2004 and staying on the panel until 2016. 

As well as winning a legion of fans in the UK, he also became a big name in the US after joining the American version of the show Dancing With The Stars. He remained with the series from 2005 until 2022.

The TV star started his career as a welder and only became interested in dancing when his doctor told him to take it up to help him recover from a foot injury.

Len went on to become a successful professional dancer winning titles including The British Exhibition Championships and the World Exhibition Championships and later continued his love of dance after retiring by forming the Goodman Dance Academy in Kent to help others achieve their dreams.

Illness: Len Goodman was just months into his retirement when he died after a short battle with bone cancer (L-R: Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli pictured in 2012)

Illness: Len Goodman was just months into his retirement when he died after a short battle with bone cancer (L-R: Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli pictured in 2012)

After finding fame on television, he chronicled his rise to fame in his 2009 memoir Better Late Than Never: From Barrow Boy to Ballroom and went on to publish two more tomes – Len’s Lost London and Dancing Around Britain.

He announced his retirement from Dancing With The Stars last year and on his final episode, he was presented with his own Mirrorball trophy.

Len said of the honour: ‘That is fantastic. ‘It has been such a joy for me to have been part of Dancing with the Stars. It really has. 

‘I’ve had such a wonderful time and this is absolutely the cherry on the cake.’

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