In the latest episode, head judge Len Goodman announced that he would be departing the show after 17 years.
Cheryl Burke has been a fixture on “Dancing with the Stars” since Season 2. On Sunday, she announced her retirement as a professional dancer — but if she has her way, she won’t be going anywhere!
The 38-year-old dancer says she’s ready to “evolve” in her career, and after 17 years with the show, she knows that “as a dancer, I am hanging up my dance shows.” Head judge Len Goodman announced his retirement on Monday, opening up an opportunity.
Burke opened up about making the tough decision to stop dancing with Variety on the eve of the show’s Season 31 finale Monday night. She was partnered with “Good Morning America’s” Sam Champion this season, finishing in 13th place out of 16 couples.
She is one of the show’s most decorated pros, having won in her first two seasons with the show, subsequently enjoying two second-place finishes and five third-place finishes. She has competed on 25 of the show’s 31 seasons, as well as one season on “DWTS: Juniors.”
“There’s so much more that I want to do, other than teach a celebrity how to dance,” Burke told Variety. “Mind you, this has been a beautiful thing. I’m not saying that in a bad way whatsoever, I’m saying this in a graceful way.”
It was also made explicitly clear that she is interested on continuing with the franchise and enjoying her evolution as a part of the “DWTS family, emphasizing that “whether or not” she continues with the show “is not up to me.”
This has been a tumultuous year for Burke, who went through a divorce and has talked openly about her struggles with alcoholism and mental health. She said that in some ways this decision is a part of her continuing growth amid these life changes.
“I’ve done a lot of work and soul searching,” said Burke. “It sounds so cliché, and I know I’ve been blessed to be given a platform like ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ I would like to really show other sides of me, especially when it comes to mental health.”
As part of that ambition, Burke shared that she’s been working on a dance program for the past decade called Body Language, with the intent of launching in 2023.
“It’s just another resource people can add to their list of resources when they’re feeling down or depressed,” she explained. “Movement has played a huge role in my life. I’ve always said movement has saved my life. Dance has saved my life, and I want to make that attainable for everybody.”
In regards to the decision to step away, Burke suggested that it’s been on her mind since the beginning of the season, and said that it “has been a long time coming.” But she doesn’t see it as a step away but a “move forward.”
“There’s also another opportunity for me to be a part of a show that is very popular, but I can’t say more because nothing has been signed yet,” Burke teased.
In a previous video where she hinted she might be considering stepping away, she also teased that she might still be a part of the show. That video came out before Goodman’s retirement announcement.
So is that the big news she can’t spill yet? There is certainly precedent. Derek Hough, himself a decorated “DWTS” alum, permanently joined the panel permanently after standing in for Goodman in 2020 (and after serving as a judge on Jennifer Lopez’ “World of Dance” from 2017 to 2020.
According to Burke, producers are “very well aware” that she wants the judging position, and have been for a few years. “It’s not that I just want it, I just know that I can contribute because I am an expert in ballroom dancing,” she noted. “I can say that with confidence.”
Burke went on to point out why she’d be a good replacement for the no-nonsense Goodman, too, adding that her methods “haven’t been known to being sugar coated.” She said, “Len is really technical and really tells you how it is. That is my style.”
She also said that “it would be nice to see two women on the panel!” If it doesn’t happen with the show, though, Burke said she’s still “moving forward” and “moving on.”
Burke will perform her last dance on the show with fellow professionals Louis Van Amstel and Pasha Pashkov as a professional dancer. Of course, Hough becoming a judge hasn’t stopped him from performing in the ballroom, so we’d imagine that opportunity would be available for Burke as well, should she be so inclined.
It should be a touching tribute for Burke and for Van Amstel, who returned to the show this season after seven years (and ten seasons) away. Burke said she gives him full credit for convincing producers to interview her in the first place.
“We did this dance [in Season 2] to Barry Manilow’s ‘Copacabana.’ We’re doing kind of a remixed version of it,” Burke told Variety. “I’m starting it off with Pasha, and we’re doing an Argentine Tango to celebrate a big farewell party as my last dance in the ballroom, which is so sad.”
You can read Cheryl’s full farewell announcement she posted to her Instagram Stories below.
Burke’s big farewell — for now? — goes down on the “Dancing with the Stars” season finale, Monday night at 8 p.m. ET on Disney+.