All summer-long, Cheryl Burke has been sharing her passion for dance with the acclaimed, “Love on the Floor” tour in Japan, taking audiences through the various stages of love. But with the 33-year-old professional dancer now back home, Burke proves dance is truly the spice of life.
With the milestone 25th season of Dancing With the Stars well underway and Dance Moms set to premiere later this month on Lifetime, Burke tells PopCulture.com it’s going to be an exciting rest of the year — especially since she’s back on the ballroom floor for the ABC hit reality competition.
“This season being my 20th is really special,” Burke said. “But I also loved my first two seasons with Drew [Lachey] and Emmitt [Smith]. Not just because of winning, but everything was new and exciting.”
Audiences might recall Smith, who is a former NFL running back, as not too far a leap from her partner this year, Terrell Owens. With Owens being a last minute addition to the show this year, Burke shares he was not one to “catch on quickly.”
“But I do love his work ethic,” she said. “And this is why I love working with athletes. They’re used to training, both in the studio and at home, and they’re good with repetition.”
Owens has been demonstrating that too. With the stars and their coaches dancing two routines last week, the former NFL wide receiver was congratulated on his “good posture” and will to improve by judge Len Goodman. The progression was a testament to Burke’s dedication to helping him.
But it’s not always smooth sailing. Burke discloses that sometimes there are challenges when connecting with a partner that make learning even more difficult. Nevertheless, it boils down to one very important aspect.
“It’s like an arranged marriage,” she said. “Your personalities don’t always click, but it’s all about communication and you both have the same goal of winning the Mirror Ball.”
Audiences at home can definitely see personalities clicking this season with rehearsal footage shared before every performance, but Burke says there is a lot more that goes into practice, which is rarely seen.
“Usually we have shows on Monday [nights], so we’re on set all day, but the other six days we’re training — with our partners and sometimes with the other pros,” Burke said. “If your partner travels, you travel with them because every day is important.”
And it has been, especially in the last two weeks. With the stakes getting higher and the pressure mounting between three episodes, Burke says she sees some other stars like Jordan Fisher and Frankie Muniz as potential competition to Owens, but it’s all about her partner’s mindset first.
“At the end of the day, Terrell is his own biggest competition and has his own struggles, so we focus on ourselves,” she said.
While Burke helps to train Owens and work through his struggles, she will also be helping young girls this October as the new dance coach in charge on Lifetime’s Dance Moms.
Replacing former coach, Abby Lee Miller, Dance Moms faced scrutiny from critics and parents over the years who believed the girls were disturbed by their coach’s dictatorial practices.
But with Burke on board, she shared on social media that as someone who “grew up with a tiger mom,” she would be the best person to “motivate these girls from within.”
“I just want to help them find their love of dance again,” Burke said. “But as the girls are all looking forward in their careers to do things outside of dance, I hope I can be a mentor to them in dealing with those new challenges.”
Burke, who started dancing at just 4-years-old and did ballroom at 11, says she can relate to her new students too because their moms are “so involved” and have “their own love of dance” just like her mother.
Between two shows and a tour, Burke proves she is someone always on the go. However, with that much dancing, the California-native adds dancers like herself need to focus on energy first. One of the ways she personally keeps her vigor up for all those calories lost while dancing is not forgetting to eat and refuel.
“I drink a lot of green tea and snack on fruit and granola and things like that. But really, I get my energy every week from watching my partner improve,” she said. “That feeling of wow, I was able to guide these students to build confidence through performance and in the case of Dancing With the Stars, doing something they’ve never done before.”
Celebrating life, passion and culture through dance, Burke admits she has learned a lot about herself through the years and with every step, she will just be learning more.
“I’m very dedicated and put 120 percent into everything I do,” she said. “It’s about the bigger picture for me; it’s always more than winning. It’s about being a positive influence in someone’s life.”
Dancing With the Stars airs Monday nights at 8 p.m. EST on ABC, and Dance Moms premieres Oct. 17 on Lifetime.
Photo credit: ABC Television / Instagram, @cherylburke, Getty / Eric McCandless