At just four years old, she began taking ballet lessons and performed throughout the Bay area until she was 10. It was at that time that she discovered that ballroom "wasn't just for old people" and decided to change her focus. She hung up her ballet shoes and began training in both standard and Latin. By 13, Burke was competing and traveling all over the world. Some of her achievements included being the 2005 World Cup Professional Rising Star, Latin Champion in U.K. Championships and fourth in the U.S. "Under 21's." One of the better known professionals on "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ), Burke was the first two-time winner of "DWTS." She and her partner singer Drew Lachey stole the show in season 2 and sensationally won the competition after their cowboy-inspired freestyle. During season 3, Burke was partnered with football legend Emmitt Smith, and together they won the competition based more on his charm than prowess on the dance floor. Unfortunately, the third time was not the charm during season 4, with Burke only making it to the semi-finals with "90201" actor Ian Ziering, coming in fourth place. She and her next partner, Vegas legend Wayne Newton, fared even worse, leaving the competition early on during season 5.
In Season 6, she made it to the finals and placed third with actor Cristián de la Fuente. In Season 7, she was eliminated in Week 8 with partner and Olympic runner Maurice Greene, the former "World's Fastest Man." Off the set, in the spring of 2008, she opened her own dance studio in northern California, called Cheryl Burke Dance and, due to her growing public profile, became one of the first professionals to be a paparazzi target, as allegations flew that Burke was having an affair with married father and former partner, Drew Lachey, during the "DWTS" tour. Both parties denied the charges and her fellow dance professionals stepped up to defend her honor. Despite the scandal, Burke returned strong in Season 8 when she was paired with French actor Gilles Marini, best known for his cameo in the Sex and the City movie. All signs pointed for a third win for Burke, but in a shocking twist, gymnast Shawn Johnson took home the trophy. For season 9, Burke was one-half of the unlikely pairing with disgraced former Republican House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay.