She's only 23, but ask her what she misses most about home when hitting the road with the "Dancing With the Stars" tour, and Cheryl Burke won't tell you family and friends. Instead, she's brutally honest.
"I miss doing my laundry," Burke said with a laugh.
As a two-time winner and three-time competitor on "Dancing With the Stars," Burke has hit the road this summer with seven other dancers -- both professional and celebrity -- in hopes of bringing the glamour of the television smash to 25 stadiums and arenas.
After averaging 20 million viewers a week and reviving interest in the waltz and the rumba, "Dancing With the Stars" has been somewhat of a dancing phenomenon. For those who don't tune in, the show might seem like little more than flashy costumes and handsome, tan starlets. Yet ratings and buzz have proved otherwise, and Burke isn't surprised.
"It's entertaining, because everyone's dancing and the celebrities are eliminated week by week," she said. "And the stress that we go through and the pressure, I think, makes it exciting."
Burke's tour co-star and Season One celebrity alum, Joey McIntyre, said the show's ability to reach out to a broad age range is one of its most appealing aspects.
"Number one, the whole family can watch it together," he said. "I think these days, there's so much TV that separates. You have adult television, you have young-kids television, so there's not a lot of stuff you can watch together. I think every once in awhile, things come back around. When I was a little, little kid, there was 'The Lawrence Welk Show,' and 'Sha Na Na' and 'Donny & Marie' and all these variety shows that had music and dance in them, and they were a part of our pop culture."
>Reluctant at first
McIntyre wasn't always a steadfast supporter of the show. In fact, when first approached to be a competitor, he almost ran in the other direction.
"They called me up and really wanted me to do it, and I had plenty of second thoughts," McIntyre said. "You just didn't know, you had nothing to fall back on as far as what the show was about. I said 'No a bunch of times, and then I said 'Yes,' and then I went to rehearsal and found out who else was doing it. It was like when I heard Evander Holyfield, it seemed like it was a joke, ya know?"
A joke indeed. For many of the celebrity competitors, the urge to strap on dancing shoes and do the samba has only surfaced in recent years, or in many cases, when ABC came knocking. Their professional partners, however, have been taking dancing much more seriously for much longer. After beginning with ballet at age 4, Burke realized her passion and talent for stepping onstage and became heavily involved on the dance floor. To this day, the dancer said she still uses the lessons taught to her at a young age to teach her partners on the show and on the tour.
"One of my influences is Allan Tornsberg," Burke said. "He was my coach since I was 16 years old, and I traveled with him all over the world. He was a former world champion, and he basically taught me from the beginning. He taught me a lot of basic technique and just a simple way of learning."
Burke has had to use this technique frequently since becoming an instructor on "Dancing With the Stars." Although she said she has been extremely lucky on the show with her selection of dance partners (including Drew Lachey, Emmitt Smith and Ian Ziering), she admits that every celebrity contestant has come with a different learning style. As a result, she has had to o identify each aspiring dancer's abilities and tailor her teaching style accordingly.
"With Drew, he was more of a technical dancer, so I taught him more of the technique side of it," she said. "With Emmitt, he was more of a performer and he had a lot of charisma, so he didn't want to learn too much of the technique, he just wanted to learn the steps. He just wanted to put his own style on it, which I think made him really stand out. And with Ian, he was more of a visual learner. He needed to see me do it a few times, and also have me write it down on paper for him to actually study it and study the counts."
It was the idea of learning from experienced teachers like Burke that ultimately hooked McIntyre into joining the show, and later, tour.
"What drew me in was learning from professional dancers," he said. "I've always had great respect for them, and after being on Broadway, and seeing what real dancers do, I wanted to take my dancing to another level. I saw it as a dancing boot camp, and I just really thought it'd be a great challenge."
>On the road
That challenge also exists in the tour's live shows, as McIntyre teams up with fellow former boy banders Lachey and Joey Fatone and former teen star Joey Lawrence. Together, the four dance some of their most memorable numbers from the television show, and McIntyre performs a mini concert of songs off of his CD "Talk to Me."
"I think the tour is the TV show meets a rock concert meets ice capades, without the ice," McIntyre said with a laugh. "You have great dancers, there's a lot of personality, a great band, great music. You get to meet people up close, so I think people come away thinking they know everyone a little bit better. It's great to see, and there's not a lot of shows like this out there."
Despite a hectic schedule, the former New Kid on the Block insists that the tour has a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, and attributes that to the fact that the celebrity competitors have brought their lives on the road with them.
"We all get along, and we're all out here for the right reasons -- to have a good time and to entertain -- so it's cool," he said. "The thing is, there are so many families on tour. Joey Lawrence has his wife and baby out, Drew has his wife and baby, Joey Fatone has his daughter and wife, and my wife is here and she's four months pregnant. We all joke that we all have families now, so it's not as crazy as it might have been back in the day, but we still have a good time."
After years of dabbling in the arts, McIntyre said he isn't ready to curb that good time anytime soon.
"I'm kind of doing both music and dance right now," McIntyre said. "There's always been that theme in my life since I was a little kid. It's always been theater, Broadway, music, TV, and I kind of go back and forth. But the theme is really song and dance and new shows and endeavors. I've got to keep that innocence and open-heartedness. That's what I'm happy with.
Looking into her own mirror ball (or rather, the mirror balls on her "Dancing" trophies), Burke said she knows where she wants to be in future years.
"I think I'll still be dancing and performing, and hopefully the show and the tour will still be alive," Burke said. "I'd like to influence others to start [dancing] and maybe open up studios and get into hosting. I'll have to see where 'Dancing With the Stars' takes me."
One can only hope it's somewhere close to a laundromat.
WHAT: "Dancing With the Stars": The Tour
WHEN: 7:30 tonight
WHERE: HSBC Arena
TICKETS: $49.50 to $151.50
INFO: (888) 223-6000 or www.hsbcarena.com