William Levy, Cheryl Burke
Cheryl Burke is pretty sure she's gotten her hearing back. When Tom Bergeron merely mentioned her partner's name, telenovela star William Levy, on the Dancing with the Stars season premiere, the crowd erupted in eardrum-bursting screams usually reserved for the likes of Justin Bieber — and they continued throughout their rehearsal package, their routine, critique and judges' scores. "Oh my God! The screams were so insane!" Burke tells TVGuide.com. "I thought I was gonna go deaf. I probably did for a second." The adoring shrieks were a welcome surprise for Burke, who wasn't sure how the audience would react to her ostensibly unknown partner. See what else she has to say about Levy, why he's a rule-breaker and if he's the next Gilles Marini.
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Have you ever heard such loud screams before?
Cheryl Burke: Uh, definitely not on the show for one of my partners. [Laughs] That was wild. I couldn't believe it. And it wasn't just once — it was constant.
Tom told me that a lot of ladies on staff were ogling him, so did you have any inkling that he would trigger this type of reaction?
Burke: No. I didn't really know what to expect. I knew he is very popular in the Latin market, but I didn't know how they were gonna react when they saw him here. And our show is obviously in the U.S. I was a little bit surprised. I didn't think no one was gonna cheer for him or everyone was gonna cheer for him, but I was more like, "We're just gonna go out and dance." So having that support blew us away and I think really made us dance ever better.
You guys did great for rehearsing for only two weeks.
Burke: Actually it was only 10 days. I think they had been wanting him to come on the show and this time he said, "OK, I can do it, but I can't start rehearsals when everyone else is" because he was finishing up his contract. We started later than everyone else. I was a little nervous. First of all, I didn't know who he was. [Laughs] I just knew he was Latin and was thinking that hopefully he'll have some natural rhythm and musicality. And thank God he did! If he didn't, we probably would've looked like a disaster.
You always get partners you don't know, but I don't think you were the only one in this case.
Burke: [Laughs] Yeah. Well, I don't know anybody. I had to Google Emmitt Smith! I basically Google every one of my partners. I think when I was a kid, I just always danced and never really watched much TV. When it comes to pop culture and who's famous and not famous, I have no idea.
A lot of fans took issue with not having enough big names in the cast too.
Burke: Right. I actually was nervous about that too. It was like, "Oh my gosh! Is this gonna be the season where ratings are not great?" And it turns out that everyone is incredible and there's more excitement about this cast than ever. We may not have the biggest celebrities this season, but what makes this show so great is that you grow to love everybody, even if they might not be big star. You grow to love their personality and their journey. We've never had a season like this where the first week everyone is fantastic. I was gonna be happy with three 7s and for us to get three 8s across the board was pretty amazing.
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Everyone's saying William could be the next Gilles Marini. Do you think so?
Burke: I definitely think he has the same type of charisma and the same type of passion that Gilles does, and the ladies love him too. It's too soon to really say anything right now, and everyone's different. I'm trying to make him the best possible dancer he can be. Obviously, it doesn't hurt that he's good-looking! I think what would be easiest for him is that he could characterize each dance because he's an actor. He'll be able to get a feel for each dance.
How's the quickstep coming along?
Burke: We're working on it. It's tough because everyone started earlier on their second dances too because they had the full three weeks, so we're really working hard on this quickstep to make sure it's as perfect as can be.
Have you adjusted your teaching method because of the reduced rehearsal time?
Burke: Not really. Right now, we're concentrating on his technique. He doesn't like rules when he dances. [Laughs] I don't think anyone does, but in ballroom, there are rules. I think everyone knows he can do the Latin dances and move his hips, but this week is the quickstep and he needs to be able to do both styles of dances. ... I think this week will be crucial for everyone. I think some people may be better in Latin than ballroom and vice versa, and some might be good in both. Everyone has their own edge and that's what makes the season so interesting. Normally, you know the first few who might go, but we have no idea this season. Tuesday's gonna be so nerve-wracking. No one scored lower than a 6. That's crazy! Usually we only get 6s and 7s.
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Were you surprised by the high scores? Do you feel more pressure now? They usually do give you room to grow.
Burke: When you start out so high, it's more pressure on us because you constantly have to live up to that. There's only one way to go, which is down. [Laughs] I don't think William is thinking too much about that. He's just focusing on the quickstep. There are more rules in the quickstep than cha-cha, so he really has to train his body and his muscles to do them. He's a quick learner. I don't think he ever expected the show to be as intense as it is. I don't think he's ever seen a full show before and I don't think he realizes how much goes into the show. He's exhausted. He's like, "I'm tired. I'm tired." I'm like, "I know, but we've gotta get through this." The quickstep's made him even more tired because he's jumping around for four hours a day. On top of that, everyone wants to get to know him. No one knows him, so I'm sure the press he's doing is insane right now, but I think he will figure out how to manage it all.
You're pretty busy too. How are your studios?
Burke: Studios are still doing great. I have two in the Bay Area. I also just partnered with Veet, a hair removal product and I just signed a new deal with Macy's. I'm their face of their new fitness line called Ideology, so yes, I've got my plate full too!