Cheryl Burke is Taking Charge: From 'Dance Moms' to 'Love on the Floor'
Updated: Apr 15, 2020
Dancing With the Stars fans have loved Cheryl Burke since she first stepped on that ballroom floor back in 2006. Not only did Cheryl win over America, but she and partner Drew Lachey also danced their way to the Mirror Ball Trophy. She also became the first pro with back-to-back wins when she and partner Emmitt Smith won in Season 3.
While she’s a tough teacher, viewers also know she has a big heart. The emotional side of her was on display in Season 17 when she took Jack Osbourne, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, all the way to a third-place finish.
She’s now taking her love and passion in two shows — Love on the Floor and Dance Moms. One show is a dream come true, while the other is allowing her to be a positive influence on young girls in the dance industry.
Dance Dish: You’ve been through shocking eliminations before on Dancing With the Stars, what was the mood like backstage after Simone Biles was voted off?
Cheryl Burke: People were shocked and we’ve already had a couple of shockers this season, including Maks [Chmerkovskiy] and Heather [Morris] and Simone and Sasha [Farber]. But I think that’s what Dancing With the Stars is all about. It’s not just about judges’ scores; it’s also about the people at home.
I think from being on the show for 19 seasons, people like someone’s journey from being a non-dancer to a dancer. That has a lot to do with your chemistry with your partner and your personality. I always say to my partners, your interviews with Erin Andrews and Tom Bergeron and the way the packages are put together also matter. People want to feel like you’re relatable.
DD: Do you think Simone’s clap back influenced the voting situation?
Cheryl: I always told my partners, “Never talk back to the judges, just smile and behind closed doors, go ahead and go off.”
I don’t think talking back to the judges is the best thing, but I do give her props for being able to stick up for herself. However, that might have rubbed America the wrong way.
DD: What does it mean to you to return to DWTS with your project?
Cheryl: I had a lot of emotions running through me on Monday. I was nervous because I’ve been a part of Dancing With the Stars since I was 20 or 21 and we’ve all grown up together. It’s that feeling of wanting to prove that I’ve grown up, moved on and share my new job.
I was nervous because I wanted everyone to love it, but at the same time, it felt so good and comfortable being back home knowing that everyone was rooting for me. I wanted to perform and be the best version of Cheryl.
DD: I posed this same question to Tony Dovolani earlier this year: What advice do you have for younger pros on Dancing With the Stars?
Cheryl: Enjoy every single moment. As women, the longevity of your career isn’t very long. I can feel it in my body already. [She laughs.] It was my choice to leave and I wanted to be able to pursue my dream, which was Love on The Floor, which I wrote 10 years ago.
It was such a success in Japan and before my body gives out on me — knock on wood — I want to be able to tour around the United States and share this with all of my fans who have supported me in the last 11 or 12 years.
The fact that we bring joy to people’s homes, that’s what matters. But we can easily get caught up in all of the drama and the competition and want the Mirror Ball. At the end of the day, you are doing your passion in front of people every single week, so be your authentic self. This is a step in the right direction. Don’t get caught up in the Hollywood drama.
DD: What inspired you to make Love on the Floor a full story instead of separate dances?
Cheryl: In all of the dance shows and artists outside of a Broadway show, I’ve never seen a dance show that told a story with a beginning, middle and end through movement. Since I was a little girl, dancing for me was always therapeutic and it was my way of expressing myself.
What is one universal language that we can all relate to, no matter where in the world we do this show? It’s love.
I thought about the different stages of love we all go through. We start with romance, the honeymoon phase. Then we go to the passionate act when it becomes more intimate. Then on to hurt, where you hit rock bottom. Then it goes to self-love and power — if you don’t love yourself, how can you love others?
DD: How did Charlie White and Meryl Davis become a part of the show?
Cheryl: They just had a great experience on Dancing With the Stars and they are such great dancers. I’ll never forget Maks and Meryl or Charlie and Sharna [Burgess] dancing together.
Meryl and Charlie were with us in Japan and people just love them. We are not dancing down to beginner level; they look like professional dancers, especially when it comes to the passion and emotion. I think it’s also helping them in their skating career.
DD: What has been the biggest challenge in mounting Love on the Floor?
Cheryl: Last year, it was tough. I worked with my creative directors Jeri Slaughter and Paul Morente, but we only had six-to-seven weeks to put the whole show together. It’s not a Broadway play — no one is singing, no one is acting. We have to be able to capture the moment of each act through just movement.
I give props to my creative directors, but also to the dancers who are in every number. They are full-on exhausted and they vomit sometimes. This show is not easy. What you saw last night was just a taste of what you’ll see.
DD: What did you look for when casting your dancers?
Cheryl: There’s not a lot of ballroom in the show, so these are well-rounded dancers. We had 500-600 people come to the audition. At the end of the day, it isn’t about the technique for me. You have to have passion and emotion. Each dancer had to give me chills. If it didn’t happen and it wasn’t raw emotion, I didn’t care if you were the most technical dancer in the world.
DD: How did the opportunity for Dance Moms come up for you?
Cheryl: My manager wanted me to have a general meeting with the executives of Dance Moms. This was before all of the drama with Abby Lee Miller. The meeting was just days before Abby had quit.
That weekend, my manager called me and said, “You’re taking over. Abby just left and quit.” No one was sure if Abby was going to come back, but it ended up that I was taking over for the rest of the season.
DD: Were you up-to-date on all of the controversy surrounding Abby Lee Miller and the show?
Cheryl: Not really. I never really watched the show. When Abby was a guest judge on Dancing With the Stars, we all didn’t want that to happen. I know of her teaching method, which I don’t agree with.
But I never really saw how intense it was. When I found out I was taking over, I had less than 24 hours to look at some stuff and I was shocked. I know a lot of people who watch reality TV love the drama, but these girls are traumatized. It’s not funny.
When you’re in the situation and you realize how real it is, it’s scary.
Look, I come from the original dance mom. My mom is a dance mom. The hard part was asking her to let go for a second. Even when I came to Los Angeles to do Dancing With the Stars, she wanted to manage me and it’s all out of love, but I needed to make and learn from my own mistakes. It’s the only way that I was going to grow.
DD: What was it like working with Nia Sioux, Chloe Lukasiak and the other team members?
Cheryl: They are amazing girls and they are so sweet. They are turning into young adults right now and it’s such a crucial time in their lives. They all want to sing, act, but they won’t be successful if they don’t have a good head on their shoulders and they won’t be if they keep getting emotionally abused.
DD: There’s been some reported chaos behind the scenes on the series. Did you feel supported by producers?
Cheryl: What was hard for my schedule and me was that Love on the Floor production had just started as well. The executives came to my auditions to get me ready for the next morning with Dance Moms. I would do Dance Moms from 5 a.m. until about Noon, then go to my Love on the Floor rehearsals and then do a night session with the girls from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
In the end, why are you here? What’s your purpose? Is it to get car service or get your hair and makeup done? I don’t expect production to do that unless it was already worked out. You have to go in there and know this is your passion. The true purpose and reason why you are here are to help these kids become better dancers. It’s to mentor these kids to become young adults and they can then influence younger girls.
Cheryl: There’s no official anything yet. They know my schedule since I go to Japan in June and return at the end of June. Then my fall tour happens in October and November. There’s been some talk of it, I think. The girls and I have created a great bond and the moms are… the moms. At the end of the day, they are just trying to figure out what the step is, but I would love to come back if it works in my schedule.
DD: What are your goals beyond Love on the Floor?
Cheryl: Right now it’s about getting the tour on the road and getting it to where I won’t be a part of it. I would love to have a residency in Vegas. I want Love on the Floor to be my legacy and I want it to continue with or without me.
I want to be a part of another dance show. I want to bring dance to the Olympics; I am so surprised that isn’t happening. The fact that they think dancing isn’t a sport already is ridiculous.
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