The day before Earth Day, Cheryl Burke took time out from "Dancing With the Stars" rehearsal to promote her book "Dancing Lessons: How I Found Passion and Potential on the Dance Floor of Life" at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books' Los Angeles Times stage, where she said she'd spend the following day indoors in the rehearsal studio, doing camera blocking for the dances she and partner William Levy would do for Motown Week.
With the competition getting even more intense as the couples head into the second half of the season, Burke is gratified to see her partner acquire the discipline and technique he lacked at the beginning. She described a grueling schedule that began three weeks before the show premiered, and now includes 12-hour days on Mondays and Tuesdays for the live shows, tough Wednesdays and Thursdays when she has to teach Levy new routines ("He gets frustrated, and we want to kill each other"), Fridays "when we love each other again, and Saturday, when we're getting the hang of it," before the aforementioned blocking on Sunday.
Burke revealed that she and the other pros have no say in choosing their celebrity partners, but she has particularly enjoyed it when she gets to dance with an athlete like football player Emmitt Smith, with whom she won in Season Three. "You need the mentality of an athlete to do well on the show. They're so disciplined. They're so used to being coached. They know what it takes, and there's no complaining. They know what they need to do," said Burke, who is less than thrilled with the new "dance duel" in which the bottom two couples face off for the judges' save. "It's more work for us, and now it's up to the judges" who stays.
She wasn't particularly fond of the "Rock Week" music choices, but loved "Latin Week" and is happy that the Argentine tango, not one of the standard ballroom dances, was added to the show, as it gave her an excuse to go to Argentina and learn the dance. "I missed being coached and training hard. It was important for me to get that passion back, and I think it really helped me as a dancer," she said.
Burke, who has been dancing since she was four, never wanted to do anything else. "Dancing has really shaped who I am today. Throughout my childhood I dealt with abuse and dancing was the thing that healed me and allowed me to express who I am," she said. Her book includes that and her eight years on "Dancing With the Stars," where she began at age 21 in its second season. "My dream was never to be on television but to be the best possible dancer I could be," she said. "It's been a life changing experience."