"As of now, it's still up in the air if I'm coming back or not. Contractually, my contract is over and there's other opportunities that have been out there for me," Burke, who has been on the show consecutively since Season 2, tells TVGuide.com. "Will it most likely be my last season? I would have to say yes."
She continues: "It's so hard for me to talk about this, because I owe my life to Dancing with the Stars. They've changed my life completely. They're my family and it's always hard to say goodbye ... to a bunch of people that really believed in me from the start, and continued to believe in me for the last 10 years."
Burke was the first female pro to win the Mirrorball, which she did with Drew Lachey in Season 2, and then repeated her victory withEmmitt Smith in Season 3. She's currently partnered with Antonio Sabato Jr.
Read our full Q&A with Burke to find out what she and Antonio are working on for Monday's Latin Night, as well as why she's always wanted to be the star of a burp montage.
TVGuide.com: How did you feel about your dance with Alfonsofor switch-up week?
Burke: For us, it was easy because we've known each other for eight years. ... We have this easy chemistry. We're friends, and on top of that he's really talented. So we had a great time during the week. He's not as busy as Antonio so we were able to focus on our dance and stay in L.A., which was nice. But it was also nice to get back together and just have that fun chemistry. That's probably why you guys saw a whole other side of me in our package that week.[Laughs] It was as if the cameras weren't there. He was able to get the best out of me, I guess you could say.
Did you think the judges were particularly harsh with their scoring last week?
Burke: I think the judges were harsh all the way around last week with the switch-up. Coming from last season, when we did the switch-up for the first time, you'd think they'd have a little bit more sympathy, knowing that they've only had, like, four or five days with this new person. Normally when you meet your new partner you have three weeks to get to know each other. I feel like [the scoring] was as if we were dancing with our original partners. So I felt like the scoring was harsh.
You mentioned your package from last week, after which you mouthed an apology to your mom. Do you really swear that much?
Burke: Yeah, I had to give a shout-out to my mom and apologize, because there was lots of bleeping and burping and cussing. Actually, for the last 10 years, I'm surprised they haven't made a burp montage of me, because I do burp a lot. It's just the way I am. And this is the first season out of 18 that I've been on that they've actually showed it at a perfect moment, when Alfonso was doing his knee slide and I just ended up burping. But you know, he's like my brother. ... I hope no one found offense to all my foul language, but yeah, they just found out who the real Cheryl Burke is.
What's the biggest difference between working with Antonio and working with Alfonso?
Burke: With Alfonso, I think he has a lot of — I wouldn't say professional dance background, but he definitely has a background where he's been taught choreography before. He's done some tap dancing in his past. So, when it comes to teaching him the steps, it just works with him. He just can memorize choreography and he's able to put his own flair to it. With Antonio, he has zero, zero dance experience. And people may find that shocking. First of all, people think Antonio Sabato Jr. is some Latin heartthrob. He's still a heartthrob, but he's Italian, and dancing does not come easily to him. So it's just different. With Alfonso, it comes a lot more naturally.
The packages show that you and Antonio have clashed a little bit at times.
Burke: Both of us get frustrated. We're also traveling on top of everything. So he works from like 6 a.m. until, like, 10 at night, including our rehearsal. ... Antonio's very competitive and he's a perfectionist and he wants to do well, which I appreciate. But it's important for me that he also has fun with the process. And for me, I'm very black or white. I'll tell you how it is. He said that he wants me to be strict on him and he wants me to be honest. So sometimes we can clash in that way to where it's like, "Okay, let's try to find the fun in this process but try not to take what the judges say or the score that they give you to heart." It's really hard though, because you put your heart and soul into this competition. How can you not take it personally?
What are you guys working on for Monday?
Burke: Monday is Latin night, so we have salsa. We're trying to incorporate other dances. We're trying to loosen him up a little bit. Pitbull is judging, so we want to make sure Pitbull appreciates what we've done. We're trying to make it sexy. We're trying to have that same chemistry that we always have on the dance floor. ... It's Week 6 and everyone is tired, but now you have to be able to really mentally stay strong. This competition is like Survivor, but for dancing. It's like, how can you get through this? And having the switch-up and coming back to each other, I think we're starting to really appreciate the way we work.
Who besides Antonio have you enjoyed watching this season?
Burke: I've enjoyed watching Alfonso. I've enjoyed watching Sadie. She's really improved a lot. I've enjoyed actually watching Lea. I think she's a great entertainer, and I think she's working really hard.Tommy Chong is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. ... He's the sweetest guy ever. I've been around for so long now, I know what these celebrities feel. They feel super-insecure. It's really hard. It's like, either you're a great dancer and you're going to do great, or it doesn't come naturally to you. It's like they're stepping into our world. ... We all really are a family at the end of the day.
How do you think Julianne's doing as a judge?
Burke: I think Julianne's doing great. I think it's really hard to step on to the judges' panel, having the three judges — Len, Carrie Annand Bruno — [who have been] a part of this for so long, and them judging her when she started the show. But I think it brings a different aspect to the ballroom. Now that Len has missed basically a month of Dancing with the Stars, it's nice to have a real ballroom judge on the panel, because she does know what she's talking about. I think she adds something fresh and new to the judging panel.
Would you ever consider being a judge?
Burke: I definitely would, but I don't know. It would be really hard for me I think, because a lot of these dancers have been my friends for such a long time. And I'm very, very honest. So if I were to be a judge and I were to judge all my friends, they would have to understand not to take it personally. Because it'd be really hard for me to walk on eggshells and pretend that it's good if it's not.
Would you miss Cheryl Burke if she left Dancing? And which pair are you rooting for this season? Sound off in the comments!
Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.