Cheryl Burke with Juan Pablo Di Pace. Courtesy ABC

Cheryl Burke on Being an Introvert and Finding Her Voice Through Dance

The last thing you'd expect to hear about a 22-season "Dancing with the Stars" veteran is that she's actually a serious introvert—but that's who I am!

When I was young, I was really quiet and found it hard to express myself with words. But sharing emotions through movement finally brought me out of my shell. Still, it wasn't easy to be vulnerable. Classes became like therapy sessions for me, and my teachers became like life coaches who I turned to for everything.


On "Dancing with the Stars," I've become the teacher and can finally reciprocate that for other people. Every partner that I've had on the show has a different goal. Some want to lose weight, some want to gain confidence, some want to make a loved one proud. It's always about so much more than just teaching the steps.

When you're forming a partnership through dance, you have to build trust. With so many of my partners, I've become their rock. They can know the steps like the back of their hand, but still feel insecure, and we have to get down to what's really making them feel that way. It's everything I went through growing up, and it's been so rewarding to share my experience.

The quiet, introverted little girl that I used to be is still there. But the performer you see on TV is the expres­sive artist that dance allows me to be. Dance will always be my purpose and my passion. I just have to keep growing, learning and finding more ways to help people through dance and movement, the same way that it's helped me.

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Martha Nichols' Skyrocketing Career Almost Never Happened

Since placing in the Top 10 on "So You Think You Can Dance" in 2006, Martha Nichols' career has been steadily on the rise: She spent two years dancing with Cirque du Soleil, has toured with the likes of Rihanna and Madonna, and has appeared in films like La La Land, The Greatest Showman and, soon, In the Heights.

But it just as easily could have never happened.

"I actually did not want to audition for 'SYTYCD,' " she says with a laugh. "My mother had passed 10 days after I graduated high school, and so I stopped dancing. We were watching the show, and my adopted dad kept saying, 'Hey, you should do this.' " Nichols finally gave it a shot, and the rest is history.

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