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Cheryl Burke and Derek Hough have five Dancing With the Stars titles between them. Joining the ABC series in seasons 2 and 5, respectively, they’re two of the winningest professional dancers on the roster — and among the more intimidating competitors as the Season 13 cast dwindles.
The series has put them in an usual place, with many viewers now voting for pros over celebrities. And as their fanbases grow, so do their opportunities to do things outside the show.
Hough took off Season 12 to film a movie, Cobu 3D, while Burke spent her recent hiatus a national tour to promote her book, Dancing Lessons.
“I’m so used to having my celebrity by my side,” Burke tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Every season I’ve done interviews with my celeb, and this time they only wanted me. It’s kind of crazy to be able to do that, but it gave me a lot of self confidence. It made me grow up a little bit.”
Hough says he’s grown up in a more literal way, saying that most people on set have remarked he’s been more focused since returning from his one-season break. He also recognizes that this gig might be more his speed.
“It was tough,” he says of filming the movie. “It was 17-hour days. I’m used to a fast-paced, live show. Movies are slow and really drawn out.”
Given his sister Julianne’s success since leaving the show — the former pro’s accomplishments include releasing a country album and starring in the Footloose remake — many suspected Hough was quietly bowing out of the series after winning with Jennifer Grey, his third victory in 7 seasons. But he came back to a warm reception with current partner Ricki Lake, and doesn’t seem to think it will be his last turn in the ballroom.
“Probably,” Hough says when asked if he’ll come back next season. “It was nice to take the break, to just kind of reset, take a breath and do something different. I would love to pursue other things, Broadway and whatnot, but it’s hard to find the timing between seasons to things like that.”
That might depend on if he and Ricki can manage to overcome the decided frontrunner, J.R. Martinez. Burke has a much different outlook on making it to the finale.
“I kind of feel like J.R. and Ricki are already in the finale,” she says, less surprised of Rob Kardashian‘s endurance the closer they get to the end of the season. “It’s fighting for that third place with Hope [Solo].“
Burke, who plans to return for Season 14, says her extracurriculars are more focused on branding efforts, like a shoe collection with HSN and a clothing line she teases will be announced very soon.
With their own accomplishments on and off the show, it wouldn’t be surprising if the duo particularly sour about fellow pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy‘s recent remarks, claiming ownership to the series.
“I don’t think Maks meant it as, ‘This is my show,'” Burke says. “It’s a group effort. How about all of the people behind the scenes? You can’t credit yourself.”
With or without any one member of that team Dancing With the Stars should continue for some time, but the current season’s dipping ratings can’t be ignored either. Burke thinks an ebb and flow is inherent to the series. (Season 9, for example, saw a noticeable drop in viewership.)
“I think it’s natural,” Burke tells THR. “This group has been great, but I think a lot of it has to do with the cast. We had Kirstie Alley last season. That’s such a big name. That really helps with ratings… It’s a journey. People tune in because a Kirstie Alley is on and then fall in love with other people.”