Cheryl Burke is ready to say goodbye to “Dancing with the Stars.”
After 26 seasons on the competition dance show, Burke walks away after earning two Mirror Ball Trophies, enduring a public divorce, and continuing on her sobriety journey.
“It’s the worst breakup I’ve ever been through,” she told Fox News Digital of her decision to leave the show.
“There was probably, you know, an option for me to bow out quietly,” she says of going public with her decision to exit the ABC program. “However, I know that, you know, in my subconscious, if there’s always that option to go back and continue on being a professional dancer, and I don’t say that lightly, then… I will never I guess, give that energy out that I am ready to move forward.”
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Burke started on the show during its second season, securing first place alongside celebrity partner Drew Lachey in 2006.
“I moved to L.A. because of ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ There was no other reason,” she noted of how intertwined her life is with the program, making her departure all the more difficult.
“I’m a professional numb-er, meaning like now that I’m not drinking, I can do other things… Like being busy with packing or being productive… And so when it really hit me, it was probably two days later,” she said of the profound change in her life.
“It just feels really weird because I’ve also noticed that I still haven’t mourned my competition life. Meaning, like I went straight from the competitive world of ballroom dancing, from you know, living in Harlem at the time with my professional partner straight into ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ So for me, it’s basically a double whammy at this moment ’cause not only did I, you know, hang up the shoes, but like I won’t be competing in general anymore.”
Although she refers to the cast and crew of the show as family, Burke acknowledged she had plateaued.
“I’ve always been a type of person that just wants to constantly be challenged,” she shared. “From my divorce, feeling it, this feeling of stagnant, which I started developing as well later in the marriage and not growing, whether that be, you know, in a relationship or within the company is something that I am never comfortable with – is not being able to grow. So it is important for me to do other things. And I’ve done 26 seasons with the same job, with the same role, right? With the same job title. So for me, you know, that would be going against my values and beliefs as a human being if I didn’t do this.”
Burke finalized her divorce from ex-husband Matt Lawrence earlier this year.
The 38-year-old also noted that the decision to leave “Dancing with the Stars” was not made quickly.
“This has been a long time coming…. Because of it being a farewell departure-dance or retirement… there is no going back. And I definitely knew this going into it and I needed to hold myself accountable… This isn’t the first time I guess I’ve left… [The show was] so gracious enough to give me a moment during the finale,” she acknowledged of having the opportunity for a final dance on the show this fall.
“I truly believe until I can really cut the umbilical cord, which is still very much attached to the show, then I won’t have any other opportunities. And I want to continue building, you know, mental health and being an advocate for mental health. That’s where my passion is. I’m currently in development of creating a dance program, which has been 10 years in the making. That has to do with movement and the therapeutic benefits of movement, because I believe and I do know in my heart that dance has saved my life.”
In terms of what is next for Burke, it’s mostly a surprise.
“I know a lot of people think that I am taking a break because I need to go check in to the nearest rehab ’cause I have been so vulnerable. And I think a lot of people generally believe that vulnerability equals weakness no matter what,” she said..
“I do know for a fact that I’ve helped other people feel like they’re not alone. And for me, that’s my purpose right now in my life.
However, the entertainer won’t be away from the small screen for long. “There is another show that is on television that is not me teaching someone how to dance,” she says of a project she has in the works.
“It definitely will show a different side of me, and it will definitely veer, because that’s where I am in my life, toward what I want to continue to spread, which is vulnerability, tenacity, strength, and being able to persevere through all the hardships and all of that as well through this platform.”