‘Dancing with the Stars’ Pro Cheryl Burke Talks Coaching Style: ‘No BS; I’m Not Going to Sugarcoat Anything’

Dancing with the Stars is a competition series where celebrities learn the art of ballroom dance. Whether they have prior dance experience or they’ve never performed a salsa in their life, the ABC competition series takes skilled ballroom pros and pairs them with current celebrities. Having worked on DWTS since season 2, Cheryl Burke knows what it takes to train a celebrity to ballroom dance. Learn more about the two-time Mirrorball Champion’s coaching style on Dancing with the Stars

Cody Rigsby sits with his pro dance coach Cheryl Burke in the 'Dancing with the Stars' ballroom
Cody Rigsby & Cheryl Burke | Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

Cody Rigsby and Cheryl Burke are partners in ‘Dancing with the Stars’ Season 30 

Burke is dancing with Peloton instructor Cody Rigsby on DWTS. So far, season 30 has presented some challenges for the duo. After the first week of the competition, Burke and Rigsby tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

In week 2, the judges scored the couple based on a rehearsal performance. The following week, during Britney Spears Night, Rigsby and Burke performed remotely from their homes. 

The couple returned to the ballroom during Disney Week, but it has been an uphill battle winning over the judges. Still, Rigsby and Burke remain part of the Dancing with the Stars Season 30 competition. 

Cheryl Burke considers herself a ‘taskmaster’ coach who takes ‘no BS’ 

During her conversation with the Heart of the Matter podcast, Burke opens up about her coaching style on Dancing with the Stars. “I am a taskmaster,” Burke admits. “I think this has a lot to do with the way I was coached. [My approach is] no BS — I’m not going to sugarcoat anything unless you deserve it.” 

Burke believes “words of affirmation” are something she could work on regarding her coaching style. “But yeah, I only know this crazy, strict way [of coaching],” she adds. 

Cheryl Burke worried she would ‘trigger’ AJ McLean as his coach in ‘DWTS’ Season 29 

Burke performed with Backstreet Boy AJ McLean during season 29 of Dancing with the Stars. The duo came in seventh place in the competition. 

While competing together, McLean and Burke started a podcast with McLean’s mentor, Rene Elizondo. Together, the trio talks about their sobriety journeys on the Pretty Messed Up podcast. 

While talking about her coaching style with Heart of the Matter, Burke mentions McLean’s sobriety while they were working together — something she worried her coaching style might impact. 

RELATED: ‘Dancing with the Stars’: AJ McLean’s Elimination Wasn’t His Fault

“For someone who’s newly sober, I was like, ‘Oh, no,'” Burke says, adding: 

I never want to be the reason [someone starts drinking again] even though I know I’m not the reason. I never want to trigger anybody, but I also need to do my job. So it’s finding a fine line.

AJ McLean inspires the ‘DWTS’ pro to attend her first Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting 

When Burke and McLean were partners on Dancing with the Stars, she wasn’t in a recovery program, but she was (and still is) sober. “AJ [didn’t] shove [the program] down my throat, but he mentioned it quite a bit,” Burke says. “Recently, I keep hearing the words ‘white-knuckling’ or ‘dry drunk,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, is this who…'” 

Burke attends therapy three times a week consistently. But as she admits on the podcast, “there’s nothing like the program.” Burke attended her first AA meeting in July 2021.