Mogul's new interview series starts today and we're so excited to announce our first guest, professional dancer Cheryl Burke!
Cheryl is perhaps best known for her work on ABC’s hit TV show “Dancing With The Stars.” This season, you can also see Cheryl as a coach on Lifetime’s reality television series “Dance Moms.”
In this interview, learn about Cheryl’s time on “Dance Moms” (including fun behind-the-scenes stories!), how she balances work with a relationship, what she’s up to next and much more!
Here are some highlights (what I call #takeaways) from Cheryl's interview:
-My mom emphasized the importance of extracurricular activities, which is how my dancing career started at age 4. I took ballet classes at a local studio.
-Around age 9, I no longer loved ballet. My mom said: ‘Why don’t you try taking group classes after school or dancing with a teacher?'
-When I heard the fun music and saw the costumes, other kids my age and dancers interacting with someone else, I fell in love with ballroom dancing.
-After a few group classes, I wanted to take it to the next level. I did a competition called ProAm where professionals dance with amateurs. I was the amateur and danced with my teacher.
-My mom and teacher saw how inspired I was and how much I looked forward to my dance lessons and competitions. My teacher thought that it was time to find a partner and compete in the 'Junior Under 21' level.
ON TURNING PRO:
-After high school I took a year off, which my mom supported as long as I agreed to pursue college.
-I tried taking online courses but training is like an Olympic sport: you have to dedicate every hour of the day to it.
-I also started teaching to pay for dance costumes, travel and lessons.
-During that year, my coach thought that it was time for me to turn professional.
-In order to be great at any type of dance, you have to focus on one technique and one part of dance. So I put all of my energy into Latin.
ON STARTING "DANCING WITH THE STARS:"
-I randomly got a call after the first season. The producers came to New York to interview me.
-I didn’t know if I wanted to do the show. TV was never my goal. Also, I was at the height of my career as a ballroom dancer and wanted to continue doing that.
-When you put dancing aside for 6 months, it’s out of sight out of mind. I had worked so hard to get to that level that I turned “Dancing With The Stars” (DWTS) down a couple of times.
Jessica: What made you finally say yes?
Cheryl: My partner and coach said go, do it and come back when you finish the season. As I thought about it, I realized that it would only take 3 or 4 months, so I decided to do it.
-I moved to Los Angeles and my partner stayed in New York.
-I started with the 2nd season of DWTS and haven’t gone back!
-I love being a part of DWTS! The show brought me out of my shell.
-In the beginning, I was very camera shy because I was used to expressing myself through movement and dance. It was impossible for them to do any interview with me. The first couple of seasons was full on training.
-I had a great first partner, Drew Lachey, with whom I won. Emmitt Smith was my 2nd partner in the 3rd season and we also won. Both partners were a huge influence on my life - they taught me about the industry.
Jessica: Why did you leave?
Cheryl: After 10 years of doing the show back to back (I was on my 19th season), it was time. I got an offer from NBC to be a show called “I Can Do That.”
-As much as I enjoyed all of my partners and changing people’s lives on DWTS, I felt that I was on autopilot. It was time to step out of my comfort zone, figure out what Cheryl Burke wants and achieve my goals.
-Because I’ve been so branded by DWTS, I felt I wasn’t achieving my goals as much as someone else’s goals.
-I wanted to feel what the celebrities feel on DWTS: they are scared, nervous and don’t know if they can do it.
-Moving to NBC put me in that position and challenged me in many different ways.
ON "DANCE MOMS:"
Jessica: How did it come up?
Cheryl: It was so quick and out of nowhere. I had a general meeting with an executive producer of the show. My manager said: 'You should just go in there and talk to them.’
-I thought: I'm not a mom, so how does this work? Also, I had seen the show and knew about Abby (she had been a guest judge on DWTS) so wondered why it would be a good fit. I’m not a yeller and when I teach people, I try to be as compassionate, encouraging and inspiring as possible.
-Three days later, Abby walked off set. They called my manager and said: 'We need Cheryl to replace Abby.' That’s how it started.
-Those conversations started 6 months ago and I had just begun rehearsals for my stage show Love On The Floor (LOTF).
-LOTF has been a passion project for the past 10 years. I wrote it in my kitchen and finally made it come to life. When I got the call from "Dance Moms," we were going to Japan for the second year in a row and deep into dancer auditions.
-I had to juggle "Dance Moms" with my project and it was tough. I’d get up at 4am, see the girls and film and then go to rehearsal for my own show until late at night.
-I did that every day for 5-6 weeks. Then I went to Japan and only recently got back.
Jessica: What was the “Dance Moms” experience like?
Cheryl: The girls are amazing. I see a lot of myself in them except that I wasn’t on camera at their age.
-My job is to make these girls shine and bring out the best in them.
Jessica: Tell us about interacting with the moms!
Cheryl: I come from the original dance mom so I know how to put the moms in their place. When they would be in the waiting room, they would sometimes barge into my room and that’s not acceptable.
-The girls need to be able to make their own decisions and not have to put up fronts just because their mom walked in.
-The moms have such high expectations of these girl but I think that the best thing to do is trust that your girls are in great hands, let them spread their wings a little bit and slowly back away.
-It’s a double edge sword. The moms are very supportive - they are great and always there - but they do cause a lot of drama.
-I may not be a yeller but I am stern and get what I want from my students and the moms have to stay in their own lane.
Jessica: It sounds like the show is more reality than scripted
Cheryl: Yes, that's true.
-The girls have the pressure of learning so many numbers that they must perform by week’s end.
-The moms are a little overbearing and get very loud.
-Do some of the moms stir up drama to continue the drama? Most likely. But mostly, what you see is what you get and this is who they are.
-After the taping, I took the moms to dinner and thought that maybe I’d see a different side of them, maybe a softer side. But they are exactly what you see on television!
Jessica: Do you have any behind-the-scenes stories?
Cheryl: Of course, the producers want more drama. They want everything to be bigger, bigger, bigger.
-I'm not a yeller but still strict. To get the sound effect, after every talk with the moms I would walk into the studio and slam the door. No matter what happened! Even if I was just walking back into the dance studio, I would slam the door and the moms would just laugh.
Jessica: What’s your coaching process?
Cheryl: I just had a short time with the girls. I wish that I had more time with them because this is a crucial part of their lives.
-Because of the popularity of the show and social media, they have huge followings. I told them to always stay grounded
-Chloe would get nervous before performances. I understand that because I get nervous to this day.
-Chloe needs to come out of her shell. I think she feels that when she performs, she freezes. I taught her to stay grounded and look at the bigger picture - that performing is something that brings people joy. Also, why do you dance in the first place? It’s a way of expressing yourself.
-Chloe in particular got caught up in the fact that she’s been told what to do her whole life and isn’t able to express her true self.
-For me, dancing is therapeutic and an escape from reality.
-I taught all of the girls: Whatever your next step is, be positive, have a great attitude, try not to feel like everyone is constantly judging you and don't be too hard on yourself.
-I was told by the girls and moms that Abby was very hard on them. Some of them were quite traumatized by that experience. I don’t want them to carry that baggage in to the next part of their lives.
Jessica: Will you return to the show?
Cheryl: There aren't talks right now of the next season. We’re waiting for my episodes to air and then will see.
-I would love to come back. I love teaching and showing my students that dancing is a great thing to have and be a part of.
Jessica: What’s next for you?
Cheryl: LOTF! It involves a lot of the skaters whom you might know from DWTS, including Kristi Yamaguchi, Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
-We're doing a U.S. tour in 2018. This show has been a huge dream of mine for a decade and to bring it to life and follow through on something has been pretty amazing.
-I’m also focused on my active wear clothing line with QVC called cee bee.
-I live in active wear and want women of all shapes and sizes to be able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle and look cute and feel confident in what they wear.
-I wear my own line all the time - you’ll see me in it in "Dance Moms." I’m very involved with the line and the design of the items.
ON MATTHEW LAWRENCE:
Jessica: How do you balance work with a relationship?
Cheryl: We have time. Matt is also in the business so he understands my busy schedule and is nothing but supportive and my backbone.
-He came to Japan and saw my show for the first time and we recently took a trip to the Caribbean.
-Whenever I get 4-5 days off, I really take advantage and make time for a personal life. I try to balance as much as possible even though balance in life can be hard.
Jessica: How do you balance?
Cheryl: Especially when training, I try to get as many massages as possible and see my physical therapist.
-Sometimes I have 20 hour days. I have to wind down at the end of each day. That could involve watching Netflix with Matt, cooking or doing something else normal. Since I’m always in front of the camera, these kinds of activities balance and keep me grounded
Jessica: How do you calm your nerves?
Cheryl: I tell myself what I tell the girls: doing something like DTWS where you have thousands of people watching and judging you can be positive and sometimes also negative. You have to realize why you are there and see the bigger picture.
-I’ve seen so many positive comments from people saying how much I inspire them and how happy they are when they watch me dance. That helps me continue on with what I love to do.
-I love to perform but every performer gets nervous. When you stop getting nervous, it’s time to hang up your shoes.
-If you’re not excited, have that adrenaline running through your body or don’t get nervous anymore, it’s time to move on and do something else, which is OK! But I think those nerves, at least for me and I know for a lot of other artists, are really what keep you going.
Jessica: You said that you left DWTS to find yourself. Where are you on that journey?
Cheryl: I don’t want to step out of my comfort zone to the point where I’m forgetting my passion, which is dance.
-Dancing will always be a part of me and my life. Whether it’s the next season of DWTS or “Dance Moms” or something else - whatever is out there, I’m going to take it.
-I’m blessed to have options and choices.
-I don’t have to do something because I need to do it or have to do it. I can do it because I want to do it. It’s a passion.