Cheryl Burke says goodbye to ‘DWTS’ after 26 seasons

cheryl burke he’s hanging up his dancing shoes.

After 17 years and 26 seasons, the professional dancer has made the difficult decision to move away from dancing with the stars, and you are still processing your decision.

“I have been crying non-stop” the 38-year-old tells PEOPLE exclusively. “He has been very emotional. There is [are] a lot of emotions and a lot of emotion, but also a lot of fear. At the end of the day, this is actually maybe another divorce that I’m going to go through in a year.”

Burke made a name for himself on the show when he won his first Mirrorball trophy, along with the singer. Drew Lachey, in Season 2. He then took home his second trophy in Season 3 with former NFL player Emmit Smith, whom she danced with again during the show’s All-Star season 15.

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After finalizing her divorce from her ex-husband Matthew Lawrence, whom she met on the show, Burke made this decision with her health in mind. Although she has taken breaks over the years to work on other projects, she has always found her way back to the show. But Burke says that this time things are different.

“I’ve been talking a lot lately about how my body just hurts,” Burke shares. For me as a dancer, as a woman, unfortunately, this is also the case as an athlete. There comes a time when I am almost 40 years old. I am 38 years old and I have certain expectations that I set for myself. Sometimes if I don’t see what I want to see or think I’m producing, that has a lot to do with it. But it also has a lot to do with overall growth.”

The show has taken a toll on Burke not only physically, but mentally as well, and she hopes to be easier on herself.

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“At the end of the day, it’s also my sobriety,” said the burke in the game says the podcast host. “I feel like I’ve really evolved and I’ve just done a lot of work within myself and to continue to be judged, to continue to worry about my body, to continue to worry about whether or not I look good in a costume is not where I am today.”

During Burke’s tenure on the show, she danced with 25 different famous couples. While it’s hard to pick a favourite, she holds a special place in her heart for some.

Sam Champion and Cheryl Burke.

jack osbourne it was amazing,” says Burke. “rober kardashian, Emmitt Smith, and I love it Sam Champion. He is a dear friend. For me, he was never about the mirror ball. It was always about my experience. I thank each of my partners for teaching me a life lesson because they all did. Whether you were my favorite or not is irrelevant. I think at the end of the day, the universe puts whoever it wants in front of us for a reason.”

Burke highlights one moment in particular, when she was paired with Kardashian, 36, who just wanted to stay on the show longer than her famous sister. Kim

Adam Taylor/Disney/Getty

“I always loved getting the dark horse,” Burke says, laughing. “For example, I will never forget rober kardashian and I went out to the first dance. They booed him for his package. He was just typical, what people thought of him: this spoiled brat. The goal was just to win kim kardashian, which was only week two. She came in second. I loved that. I haven’t talked to him in a long time, but those are those moments where I feel like I’ve made an impact in someone’s life.”

If Burke has his way, he will one day return to the show in a different capacity, as he sets his sights on the future.

“I’d like to try and challenge myself to do something different,” Burke explains. “I definitely want to be in the mental health space more. I have a dance show that I’ve wanted to launch for the last decade and hope to launch next year called Body Language.

“I definitely know that as a dancer, I’ve done what I can do, and that was 26 seasons of dancing with the stars. That’s a great race.”

dancing with the stars will crown its season 31 champion live Monday at 8 p.m. ET on Disney+.

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