Credit: John W. Ferguson/ Getty Images Photo: Cheryl Burke Signs Copies Of Dancing Lessons: How I Found Passion & Potential On The Dance Floor & In Life on February 16, 2011

Dancing With the Stars pro Cheryl Burke isn’t letting that nasty spill she took during her last performance slow her down. In an exclusive Wetpaint interview, Cheryl updates us on her injured leg, dishes about partner Chris Jericho’s “hip action,” and names her dream DWTS celeb partner.

Wetpaint: How is your leg injury? Will you be competing on Monday? If you can’t, what will the show do?

Cheryl Burke: I’ll definitely be competing and my leg injury is fine. It’s not like I have to stop dancing for it. I think I just sprained or pulled or tore a little bit of something in there. I’ll be fine.

You previously mentioned that you enjoy working with athletes on Dancing With the Stars, but you won your first season with performer Drew Lachey. Which do you prefer?

I love athletes because athletes really know how to work hard and they’re used to being coached all the time. I feel like I don’t have to really watch what I say because they’re so used to harsh treatment from their coaches. I feel like I can be completely honest with my opinion, and that’s what they want from me as well — honesty.

Which of your partners did you think would make it further into the competition or even win their season?

I thought Gilles [Marini] was going to win for sure. Gilles and I went pretty far. We were still second but I thought for sure we were going to win the competition. Unfortunately we didn’t, but Shawn Johnson deserved to win as well because her freestyle was amazing.

You’ve been partnered with a number of tall men throughout your Dancing With the Stars career. How does that affect the training process?

It does. Especially with Rick Fox last season. Because he’s 6’7” and I’m only 5’4. It’s really hard to like back-lead him if I needed to. He had to be a little bit independent when it came to learning his steps. It was hard for me because he wasn’t very compact. It was hard for me to push him around on the floor.

Credit: ABC Family Channel © 2010 Disney ABC Television Group Photo: Rick & Cheryl: Week 7

Have you ever been surprised by a contestant in the first week of competition?

I’ve been surprised by pretty much every single person I’ve worked with. All my partners have had no dance experience and it still surprises me to this day how they can learn a routine in just three or four days. A lot of the celebrities really surprised me in how they are able to catch and put them together and be able to perform at the same time.
 
What do you think Chris needs to work on the most? What is the biggest challenge in working with him?

He’s really improving every single week. I think Chris needs to work the most on his grace and his arm movements sometimes can look a little too sharp. It’s fine for some of the dances but for the slower dances he needs to work on that. And also he needs to work on his hip action a little bit more.

Do you think Chris has what it takes to go all the way?

Absolutely. I think this competition is about celebrities who come to you with no dance experience and it’s all about the journey that person takes. We’ve seen improvement in Chris every single week and if he continues on showing more and more improvement he deserves to win. He’s just as good as all the other competitors that we have.
 
Who is your dream celebrity dance partner?

Johnny Depp. I guess I could say [that] because that’s never gonna happen. I wouldn’t mind having a really cool tennis player come on the show. We’ve never had a male tennis player. Or even like a soccer player would be great to have as well, because a soccer player would have amazing footwork I would think.


Credit: ABC © Disney ABC Television Group Photo: Chris Jericho and Cheryl Burke... Rehearse?

Are there any changes you’d like to see to the Dancing With the Stars format?

Because ball room dancing is technical, it can’t really be like American Idol where it’s just based on voting. I think the judges deserve to put their scores in as well because it’s footwork and posture and there are so many things that maybe the audience at times won’t be able to accomplish. The audience would probably just judge it purely on entertainment, and there’s so much more to ballroom dancing than just entertainment. You need to have technical side of it as well.

Which of the judges do you admire the most?

I look up to Len Goodman because Len Goodman has been a judge and I’ve known him even before I started Dancing With the Stars. He’s been in the same ballroom business that I have and he really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to technique.

How has Season 12 been different from others?

This season there is no frontrunner. Really, everybody is in the same game, the same competition and everyone’s actually been on top of the leader board already. So you can see the pattern. There’s no clear frontrunner, which I think make this season really exciting.

Do you agree with Len that this is the "best" season of the show so far? Why or why not?

What makes it the best season is the fact that you want to watch every single week because it’s not like there’s a Nicole Scherzinger or a Jennifer Grey or anyone with real dance experience. Everyone is in the same boat.

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