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Cheryl Burke previews 'Dancing With the Stars' Season 25 and her premiere-night dance with Terrell Owens

Victoria Leigh Miller
Terrell Owens and Cheryl Burke (Photo: Heidi Gutman/ABC)

Cheryl Burke is back for the 25th season of Dancing With the Stars, which also marks her 20th season competing on the ABC reality show. In a preview for Yahoo TV, the two-time mirrorball champion discusses what we can expect for the Season 25 premiere, her partnership with NFL star Terrell Owens, and who she’s most surprised to see in the DWTS ballroom.

I decided to leave Dancing With the Stars after Season 19. I was working on a 10-years-in-the-making project called Love on the Floor, which is a live stage show that I created. And it finally came to life, and I really wanted to take the time to focus on that. We performed in Japan for two straight years, and it was amazing to be able to learn again. With Dancing With the Stars, I’m teaching — I’m constantly giving my energy and teaching celebrities, which I love because I love the process of transforming them into dancers. But I wanted that same process with myself. I wanted to take my dancing up to another level. With Love on the Floor, I was able to do that.

I did come back for Season 23 with Ryan Lochte, and then after that, we decided to take Love on the Floor back to Japan. But I always wanted to celebrate my 20th season on Dancing With the Stars and celebrate that goal on top of celebrating the 25th season. It’s a big season for both the show and for me, so I’m very excited to come back.

My partner, Terrell Owens, and I started kind of late in the game. He just signed on, so we haven’t gotten to 100 percent know each other yet. We didn’t get that three-week grace period of training like everybody else did, but so far Terrell is just such a hard worker. And I’ve always said out of everybody I’ve danced with, I prefer athletes because of their hard work and determination and them just wanting to get it. What’s so great about athletes is they know how to be coached. They don’t get their feelings hurt. And I’m known to be a hardcore coach, and it’s basically tough love with me, so I don’t have to walk on eggshells with these athletes, especially with Terrell. Because if anyone can handle me, it’s definitely Terrell. I definitely don’t hold back with him. I really push him hard, and he can handle it.

It’s nice winning, but I have to say for me now, I love being able to change the audience’s perception of who my partner is. Which is why I came back last year for Ryan Lochte. Which is why I came back for Terrell Owens. These people have been labeled as certain personalities, and I love finding out that’s not who they really are. They’re really quite the opposite. It’s great to win a mirrorball and all that, but I love being able to change people’s lives and change people’s opinions on certain personalities I dance with.

Our first dance is the cha-cha, and we’re dancing to the song “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by the Temptations. This cha-cha is just about having fun and really showing you Terrell Owens behind the mask. Terrell’s fans will recognize a little end zone dance that he did. We’re definitely adding moves in this dance that you’ll recognize from when he would celebrate a touchdown.

I’m also looking forward to Latin night. Latin dancing is something I specialized in when I competed back in my day, so I just love that we celebrate Latin night on Dancing With the Stars. It’s my specialty, it’s something I feel very comfortable with, and I think with Terrell being my partner, hopefully we’ll do great. Hopefully we won’t be eliminated before that night!

Nick Lachey and Peta Murgatroyd (Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC)

I was most surprised to see Nick Lachey on the Dancing With the Stars cast. I have to say, I danced with his brother Drew Lachey my very first season, and I do remember talking to Nick about it over 10 years ago, and he always said to me he would never do this. I think he’s told multiple people he would never do Dancing With the Stars, so it was funny to hear that he was part of the cast when I signed on to do this season.

[As for the rest of the cast], I hear that Jordan Fisher is absolutely amazing. He has a lot of experience doing Grease Live! and Broadway. The girls are also great. I actually went by Lindsey Stirling’s rehearsal to help her out on a step that Mark Ballas wanted me to come in and show her. She honestly is amazing. I was like, “Mark, why am I here?”

Lindsey Stirling and Mark Ballas (Photo: Heidi Gutman/ABC)

Julianne Hough isn’t coming back, which is a shame because I love having a ballroom dancer as a judge. We still have Len [Goodman], which is great, so we have the original three judges. I heard they may be having guest judges in and out.

So much has changed since I first started out on Dancing With the Stars in Season 2 — from the production value to the ballroom in general to the quality of dancing. The level of dancing has gone up tremendously. I couldn’t do now what I did with my first dance with Drew Lachey because it was so basic. We didn’t have troupe dancers when we first started, and now the production value has gone up, to props, lighting, different camera angles. And so our first dance now would be something we would do in the finals back in the day.

The Season 25 premiere will have a huge opening number that we’re pre-taping, so we’re not actually starting the show in the ballroom. That’s going to be a great treat. It’s a huge anniversary for Dancing With the Stars. I know every season they say, “This is the biggest season yet,” but for sure this is the biggest season yet.

I’m so happy to be back, and I thank all my fans from back in the day in Season 2 to my new fans now for encouraging me and tweeting me. Whatever they post on social media, I read everything. They really do help me keep my head up high, even though Dancing With the Stars can be rough sometimes. Sometimes you get down on yourself, but I’m just so appreciative of all the support I’ve been getting from everybody. Keep it coming!

Season 25 of Dancing With the Stars premieres Monday, Sept. 18, at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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