After 10 seasons on Dancing with the Stars, Cheryl Burke still experiences firsts. "This season is the first time, I have to say, that I know all the celebrities," she tells TVGuide.com. "I didn't have to Google anyone!" Burke has had to brush up on the majority of her partners — including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Chad Ochocinco, Emmitt Smith, Maurice Greene — save for Ian Ziering, Wayne Newton, and now, basketball star-turned-actor Rick Fox. "I knew who Rick Fox was. Aren't you proud of me?" Burke says. But the Dancing pro has bigger things to worry about this season than her partner's resume.
TVGuide.com: How are rehearsals going?
Cheryl Burke: So far, so good. I was most worried about our height difference because he's 6 feet 7 inches and I'm 5 feet 4. Can you even picture us dancing? So I had our shoe people make me custom four-inch heels. It's going to be a little bit of a challenge. I was actually in those heels all day yesterday, so my feet are in so much pain right now!
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TVGuide.com: Are you worried about injuring your feet?
Burke: No, I just really have to start getting used to the heels. I think after I get used to them, it'll be OK. But oh my God, they're, like, throbbing right now! Not so much blisters, but when you're up in high heels for longer than five or six hours, and you're dancing at the same time, it just gets really painful. But I guess no pain, no gain. If I don't put the heels on, he's not going to be able to reach down and dance with me, so I'm reaching new heights this season!
TVGuide.com: Were you surprised you were paired with a tall guy?
Burke: Not really. I think it's a good challenge, something different. I've never been with such a tall guy. I think he's one of the tallest celebrities ever on Dancing with the Stars. The tallest female pro is Kym Johnson and she's dancing with David Hasselhoff, who's pretty tall as well. I think I may be the next tallest by, like, half an inch.
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TVGuide.com: How's he coping with the height difference? The judges chastised Chad last season for dancing down to you and he's shorter than Rick.
Burke: He's doing well. His posture is pretty good. Sometimes he tries to dance down to me, but I tell him it's really important that he stands up straight and I dance up to him, not the other way around. I think basketball players and football players are completely different. Football players are so used to being down all the time and with Rick, his posture isn't bad. He just has a problem with sticking his butt out at times. He has to make sure his butt doesn't stick out. He's also really graceful with his arms.
TVGuide.com: What's your first dance?
Burke: Our first dance is the Viennese waltz, and then the jive if we make it through the first week. He's making a lot of progress. We've rehearsed for two weeks and he's improved every day. He's picked it up very quickly. I think he can relate to choreography as plays for basketball. He had to memorize those and this is a little bit like that.
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TVGuide.com: Rick's your fourth athlete. What's the deal?
Burke: [Laughs] Who knows? We have no say in who we get, but I love working with athletes because they're so easy to work with. They know what it takes to really focus, and they want to learn, and they know how rigorous training can be. They're very disciplined. I honestly wouldn't mind having an athlete every season. Maybe three in a row next year!
TVGuide.com: What do you think of the cast? Anyone you're keeping an eye out for?
Burke: I think the cast is great. After last season, which was another great cast, I was a little nervous about seeing if we were going to be able to beat all the hype that we had last season. But it's very well casted. We've got people like Jennifer Grey. We've done a lot of tributes to Dirty Dancing, and that's one of my favorite movies, so I'm a huge fan of Jennifer Grey's. I think what's exciting is that no one has any dance experience. Normally, you're like, "She has some dance experience, so she's going to come out and be amazing." This season, you just don't know.
TVGuide.com: How are your studios and clothing line going?
Burke: The studios are great. We're franchising this year, which is really exciting. I also have a book coming out Feb. 14. It's called Dancing Lessons, but it's not about my life, not dance. I'm expanding to shoes and have a line coming out in February as well. They're going to be shoes that have the flexibility dance shoes have, but they're everyday shoes. It's heels, wedges, flats, but they're made with material that is dance shoe materials, so they're comfortable. You could probably dance in them!