Dancing With the Stars Season 31 has come to an end and the show will never be the same again. Not only did original show judge Len Goodman announce his retirement, but pro dancer and two-time mirror ball champion Cheryl Burke performed her last dance on the ballroom floor.
TV Insider spoke with Burke immediately after the finale to talk about why she is leaving the show as a pro, why she danced her last dance to the Barry Manilow hit “Copacabana (at the Copa),” and her potential role as a future judge on the show. Read on for the scoop from Burke — who like Goodman — calls things as she sees them!
How are you doing?
Cheryl Burke: I’m good. I’m alive. I’m happy I was able to do my last dance.
Why did you dance your last dance to “Copacabana”?
It was going down memory lane with Louis [Van Amstel]. I walked onto this dance floor [in Season 2] with Louis to that song and that’s how I wanted to end it.
And you danced with Pasha Pashkov, too.
Yes. I love Pasha, too. Those two bring out the best in me.
Why have you chosen now to leave Dancing With the Stars as a pro dancer?
I know in my heart after 26 seasons of something it is time to move on. I need to move on and evolve and try other things. When I feel stagnant and I think, “What if?” I know I have to make this bold move. Just like when I made the move to come from Harlem to here, too. But it was the best thing that could have happened.
We’ve learned from Derek [Hough] that a natural progression on this show is to go from pro dancer to the judges’ table. I’m getting ahead here but Len is considered the “tough judge” who calls things as he sees them… You, too, are considered to be … well …
[Laughs] A taskmaster?
Yes. A taskmaster — in the best possible way — because you want your celeb partner to have the best experience. You don’t sugarcoat things. Len is “what you see is what you get.” You’re the same way.
I appreciate that. I believe that’s one of my strongest qualities. My authenticity. If anyone knows ballroom, [I do]. I competed at the professional level. I don’t do any other styles but ballroom. Listen, [my joining the show as a judge] isn’t up to me. They’re very well aware.
You’d love a future with the show in some capacity.
Yes, 100%. I would hope so. But if not — that’s okay, too.
What did you think of Charli D’Amelio and Mark Ballas winning?
Amazing. They deserve it. I am so proud of Mark for sticking to dance in his and Charli’s freestyle. At the end of the day you can do all these “wham, bam” routines … but that’s not what Dancing With the Stars is.
Pros have attributed the show’s return to what made it great this season to executive producer Conrad Green being back. Do you agree with that?
Yes. I couldn’t be more thrilled for the show to have somebody who is not just an amazing leader but truly a great man. He has a heart. He’s not one to tell people what to do without feeling. He loves this show. He created magic here and he’s back creating more.
What did you think of Shangela and Gleb Savchenko’s freestyle? I don’t recall that we’ve ever seen anyone fly off the stage like that.
Definitely not. That was a first. And how about Gleb? I mean “Natasha”!