Cheryl Burke on 'DWTS' Return After COVID: Felt Like 'There Was a Pillow on My Face as I Was Jiving'

"My lungs felt like they were going to collapse," Cheryl Burke said of returning to Dancing with the Stars with partner Cody Rigsby after recovery from breakthrough COVID-19 case


Cheryl Burke and Cody Rigsby are detailing their return to the ballroom after bouncing back from breakthrough COVID-19 cases.

The Dancing with the Stars duo had been quarantining after contracting breakthrough cases of COVID-19 before returning for Monday's episode to compete as part of "Disney Heroes" night, taking on the jive to "Stand Out" from A Goofy Movie. On Tuesday night, they danced the Viennese Waltz to the song "Gaston" from Beauty and the Beast.

Rigsby, 34, told reporters after that he was still experiencing lingering effects from his bout with COVID-19 but was feeling almost "back to normal."

"I feel like I'm 90 to 95 percent," he said. "The jive is so athletic. We did it back to back. I remember my lungs being a little on fire. There are still effects from COVID. This is a one-in-a-century pandemic and these vaccines did a great job keeping us healthy and not in the hospital. But you're still going to feel the effects."

And Burke, 37, said she experienced somewhat of an out-of-body experience: "Like, my brain and my body not connecting like I had on Sunday. It was as if there was a pillow on my face as I was jiving."

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"Look, I can always do a dance once but to have to repeat it, which we have to do it. The cameras have to know what we're doing," she added, "but I definitely felt that it … it wasn't stamina as much as it was like, 'Whoa, like, I can barely breathe.' My lungs felt like they were going to collapse."

The Peloton instructor said he feels "really good" about next week.

Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

"We only have one dance. We're strong. We're even healthier and more recovered from COVID," said Rigsby. "So this feels like an inflection point for this campaign. This feels like an inflection point where, you know, we've been through this COVID situation and we're finally getting a fair shot at all of the other competitors in the ballroom. I'm excited to kind of really give it our all."

"I basically told Cody that look," Burke added, "you're never going to get a week like this, as hard as what this week has been. We'll have more days regardless, but to do two new routines, two technical routines, see different styles of ballroom in two days. Basically it was — it was the hardest for sure."

Burke reunited with Rigsby Saturday during what appeared to be a rehearsal for the Disney performances. "Reunited and it feels so good!" she said at the time. Two days earlier, she had announced she had completed quarantine and would be dancing live with Rigsby during the upcoming episodes.

"I have been officially cleared. I am back to normal. No more quarantine for me," she said on Instagram. "Unfortunately, Cody is still in quarantine, but he will be back in Los Angeles starting Friday, which means we can technically dance on both Monday and Tuesday."

RELATED VIDEO: Cheryl Burke, Cody Rigsby Cleared to Return to DWTS After COVID-19: 'No More Quarantine For Me'

Burke continued, "I'm grateful that we're healthy. Thank you guys for all your support over the past week-and-a-half or ten days. It's been truly an emotional rollercoaster, but wouldn't have been able to get through it without all of you guys and all of your support. I am just happy that Cody is okay, and we're still rehearsing via Zoom as we speak."

During last week's show, Burke and Rigsby gave DWTS' first-ever remote performance, filming their "Gimme More" jazz routine separately from their homes. Following the performance, Burke told PEOPLE the remote dance was "one of the hardest things" she has ever done.

"I'm just really grateful that despite everything that's happened in the last several days, we've been able to pivot and stay in the competition virtually for this week," she said at the time.

Breakthrough cases — COVID-19 infections that occur in people who have been fully vaccinated against the virus — are unlikely, but possible and expected, as the vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing infections. Still, vaccinated people who test positive will likely be asymptomatic or experience a far milder illness than if they were not vaccinated. The majority of deaths from COVID-19 — around 98 to 99% —are in unvaccinated people.

Dancing with the Stars airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.

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