“Dancing With the Stars” pro Cheryl Burke is the longest-tenured pro dancer on the show, having been dancing on the show for 24 seasons dating back to season two. She recently opened up about retiring after season 30 and why that makes sense for her and where she is in her life.
Burke Said She Wants to Start a Family
On the Sept. 13 episode of “The Tamron Hall Show,” Burke opened up about how she is the oldest professional dancer on “Dancing With the Stars” and at the age of 37, she’s starting to think about the next chapter in her life.
“I’ve come to the point now where I’m 37 years old and it’s like — OK, I’m starting to be like, ‘What’s the next chapter?'” said Burke. “As much as I’m so grateful to the show and being a part of it, there’s a mental capacity to the show where you’re just like, ‘Oh gosh, does this define me?’ Is the validity that important where I really need to find it within?”
Burke also said that for a woman to be dancing at this level at her age is “unheard of” and she also has someone else to consider now — her husband, actor Matthew Lawrence.
“As a dancer, especially as a woman, our career, it doesn’t last very long. The fact that I’m 37 and still samba-ing out there and shimmying is pretty unheard of,” said Burke. “Again, I’m not in the [international] competitive level anymore, but still, I also have to understand that I have arthritis in my body, you know? The pounding and pounding and pounding.”
She added, “And also, I have to think about if I want a family and obviously I do. Then I have to think about OK, it’s not just me now, it’s me and my husband and what do we want for our future?”
‘Dancing With the Stars’ Really Helped Burke Find Her Identity
Burke also told Hall that the world of competitive ballroom dancing is such a “man’s world” that she didn’t even know who she was all those years ago when she started “Dancing With the Stars,” but she credits the show with helping her find herself.
“In general, the ballroom competitive world is very much a man’s world, so when I got here to Los Angeles … I had zero identity. I was a different person. But I have to say, thanks to the show, obviously it trained me, on-camera training. I mean, I couldn’t even say a soundbite on camera without freaking out, so the last — how long have I been on now, 16 years? — has been a huge transformation, in a positive way,” said Burke.
Part of her transformation has been her admitting that she has a drinking problem and subsequently getting sober, which Burke did about three years ago. She told Hall that in finding her sobriety, she has also learned some important things about herself.
“With my sobriety for the last three years, I’ve realized I’ve had social anxiety. I’m starting really to figure out, ‘Wow, OK, so the drinking also was so that I could do a red carpet, so that I could do press, so that I could do a talk show.’ It was more about finding my own identity and my words and having that self-love and self-respect and to know that I’m not just some ‘dummy dancer,’ I actually have an opinion,” said Burke.
Burke also said that while physically, “Dancing With the Stars” does take its toll, it also causes mental stress that she has had to learn how to deal with in other ways besides drinking.
“It’s one thing to compete and then it’s one thing to be judged on television and do so for 24 seasons. I’ve always said it’s not the physicality, it’s my mental state. If I’m not good here,” said Burke, pointing to her head, “I can’t even leave my home. It gets pretty dark. So I have to constantly service myself and my own intelligence, whether that’s meditating or whatever it is.”
“Dancing With the Stars” season 30 premieres Monday, September 20, 2021, at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times on ABC.