"Thank you for changing my life and for bringing joy to millions of people who have been watching us throughout the years," Burke said through tears
In a touching video tribute posted on Instagram, the former DWTS pro shared how the late ballroom dance icon had shaped her career ahead of the competitive dance series’ memorial performance on Tuesday.
“Even though I am not going to be in the ballroom tonight, I still want to be able to express how much Len Goodman meant to me and the influence he had on my competitive career even before Dancing with the Stars,” she began. “There are not enough words to honestly describe how much he really made such a huge impact on my life, but why not give it a shot?"
Though Goodman – who died of bone cancer at 78 in April — was “one of the many judges” she’s performed for throughout her career, Burke claimed she would name him as her “favorite judge” every time an interviewer would ask her — “without hesitation.”
“Mr. Len Goodman,” the 39-year-old television personality continued, addressing the late head judge. “Thank you for being the face of ballroom dancing and always standing by what was right, no matter what. You are such a huge part of the reason why Dancing with the Stars is a massive hit as the premise is about teaching celebrities how to ballroom dance, and the word 'ballroom' before the word 'dance' was all because of your many decades worth of knowledge and experience.”
She went on to praise his “tough love and no B.S. approach,” and shared that Goodman’s “respect for the art and sport of ballroom dance showed me and millions of people how much you truly cared.”
“No dilly dallying around with gimmicks or tricks. All you ever wanted to see was strictly ballroom,” Burke continued. “I'm sure many will agree when I say that because of you, ballroom dancing was brought to mainstream television.”
“I truly believe the show is a success and is loved and viewed by millions to this day because of your influence, your passion and love for the ballroom genre,” she said, before growing emotional as she recalled choreographing her routines with Goodman in mind.
She began wiping tears from her eyes as she shared that her priority during her tenure on the show was to make him “proud.”
Burke gushed, “Thank you so much for representing us ballroom dancers and never compromising what we stood for in the ballroom community. Thank you for changing my life and for bringing joy to millions of people who have been watching us throughout the years.”
“I'd also like to send my love to Mr. Len Goodman's family, as well as wish all of the pro dancers tonight who are taking part in Len’s tribute so much love,” she concluded. “I know that Len would give your performance an 11 if he could.”
In the caption of her video, she also noted his significance, writing, "There are special people who never leave us, even after they are gone. Len Goodman is one of them…🤍.”
Last Thursday, Burke — who performed on the show for 17 years and 26 seasons — revealed she would not be participating in the upcoming tribute episode of Dancing with the Stars in a post shared to Threads.
“For those of you asking if I’ll be a part of Len Goodman’s tribute next week on DWTS, unfortunately, I wasn’t invited however, I’ll be there in spirit and can’t wait to cheer my former colleagues on!” she wrote. “Sending love and light to everyone. 🤍🙏🏼 #riplen.”
The special will prompt the return of other former DWTS pros like Maks Chmerkovskiy, Kym Johnson-Herjavec, Tony Dovolani, Anna Trebunskaya, Edyta Śliwińska, Karina Smirnoff, Louis van Amstel and Mark Ballas.
Reps at Dancing with the Stars did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
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Dancing with the Stars airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC and Disney+.
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