Cheryl Burke is a two-time Dancing with the Stars champion, winning the coveted mirror-ball trophy with Drew Lachey and Emmitt Smith. The 15-season pro will blog for PEOPLE.com while competing on season 16 with her partner, D.L. Hughley.
The last two weeks on Dancing with the Stars have been shocking. Wynonna, who was sent home, has the country fan base. We were just one point ahead of Wynonna, but after the judges’ remarks, D.L. and I thought we were leaving the competition. I guess people were really pulling for us.
We try not think about the judges’ scores too much. Obviously, there’s room for improvement for D.L., but lately, the criticism hasn’t been constructive. They’ve been brutal to him. At the end of the day, we’re dancing for our fans and family and for each other. That’s all we can really do.
On Monday, Bruno [Tonioli] said D.L. needed a hip replacement, and Len [Goodman] said if D.L.’s a sex machine then he was America’s Next Top Model. That was really rough, but then on the next night, Len had a chance to say something more encouraging and he didn’t. It was a rough two nights in a row. Len, especially, is a ballroom judge. Give us something we can take back.
I just told D.L. to keep his head up. He wasn’t even angry – he was just sad. Everyone says not to bring your emotion into this, but at the end of the day, it’s hard because we work so many hours every single day. D.L. is someone with no dancing experience showing his vulnerable side. It would be nice to have judges stay consistent. There are people who have the same dancing experience as D.L., but the judges give them encouraging words. So, let’s make this an even playing field.
I know it’s television and everyone needs to cause controversy, but I feel like D.L. has become the punching bag [for the judges]. Derek Hough, Mark Ballas and Kym Johnson have been on our side. Derek came up to D.L. on the second night after they were both saved at the same time and said, “You know what? Just use this to your advantage. People are going to be rooting for you because the judges are so cruel.”
Working hard to try to improve every week – that’s what the show is really all about. This week, we’re dancing a foxtrot. The theme for all the dancers is the best year of my life. For D.L., his best year was his last year of innocence. It was around the eighth grade before his neighborhood got a little crazy. We’re dancing to Etta James’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You.” It’s a really cool, sassy routine and we tell a story within the dance. I’m trying to bring out his acting skills to really help him with the dance.
I’m just really going to work on his technique and posture. The foxtrot is all about keeping his frame and making his dance a little bit smooth and not so bumpy. We’re going to work on his rhythm and musicality. We’re going to try our best, and hopefully at least get some better remarks from the judges.