‘DWTS’: Why Cheryl Burke Thinks Previous Dance Experience Can Be a Disadvantage for Competitors

Two-time Mirrorball champ Cheryl Burke is returning for season 30 of Dancing With the Stars. Paired with famous actors, singers, and athletes over the years, Burke knows first-hand how challenging it can be to teach someone fancy footwork. Yet the pro dancer finds inexperience can actually be an asset when training for television’s most famous ballroom.

Cheryl Burke of 'DWTS' presents onstage at the 'See Us Unite for Change - The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) in service of the AAPI Community' Broadcast Special at the La Palmas in Los Angeles, California
Cheryl Burke of ‘Dancing With the Stars’ | Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for See Us Unite

Cheryl Burke finds it challenging to ‘un-train your brain’

The popular reality competition has seen its share of contestants with a dance background. This season, Dance Moms alum JoJo Siwa could possibly be viewed as having an unfair advantage due to her boogieing background. Burke considers previous dance experience a bit of an obstacle.

“I prefer almost the athletes because when you have dance experience and it’s not ballroom dance,” Burke explained, according to E! Online, “it’s like you have to un-train your brain and it’s a lot harder to develop new habits when you’ve been doing something for so long.”

Burke prefers teaching a partner just beginning their dance adventure, where you basically start from scratch.

“With AJ [McLean] last season, that was our challenge as a couple was to get rid of those hip hop postures,” she recalled of her partner last season. “You should never watch me dance hip hop because it’s very proper hip hop. It’s nice to have somebody in a way that has no experience so they have no bad habits.”

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JoJo Siwa is new to ballroom dancing

Burke served as a replacement for Dance Moms star Abby Lee Miller in season 7 and is familiar in the types of routines Siwa did on the show. The Mirrorball champ praised Siwa’s dancing ability, but noted she’s a novice when it comes to ballroom moves.

“She’s a dancer,” Burke said of Siwa. “I actually took Abby Lee Miller’s place a few seasons ago. She wasn’t a part of that season but she did come and she made a special appearance. She’s an amazing dancer, but again, she’s not ballroom. I think the judges are going to judge all the dancers who are on this season a lot harder than normal.”

The pro dancer has previously commented on the precision of ballroom dancing, and how it can challenge even the most skilled contestants.

“With ballroom dancing comes lots of discipline and lots of etiquette,” Burke remarked to Parade in 2019. “It’s kind of like Cotillion, but way better and way fancier, but also a lot of hard work.”

‘DWTS’ isn’t all fun and games

While competitors know going into DWTS that they’ll have to practice, Burke pointed out they are often unaware of the rigorous rehearsals and intense training involved.

“I think what people don’t understand coming into the show is that they think they can dance and that it’s going to be all great and fun,” she shared. “It is always fun, but with that it’s just so much hard work.”

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No word yet on who Burke is partnered with, but she prefers teaming up with the novices.

“That’s what this show is about,” Burke said. “It’s not about making a dancer be a better dancer; the ones that are memorable are the ones that come on the show not knowing anything about dancing and that succeed.”

Season 30 of Dancing with the Stars premieres Monday, Sept. 20, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.