Cheryl Burke and Derek Hough Dish on ‘DWTS’ Semifinals

Cheryl Burke and Rob Kardashian (Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)

Cheryl Burke and Rob Kardashian (Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)

Dancing With the Stars” is going into high gear with this week’s semifinals. And before the celebrities hit the floor on Monday night, caught up with Derek Hough and Cheryl Burke, the two longtime pro dancers who have made the final four with their partners Ricki Lake and Rob Kardashian.

Ricki and Derek have thrilled DWTS fans this season with their polished choreography, particularly in a Psycho-themed tango on October 10, which earned a score of 29 from the judges. Although they had a small setback last week, not scoring as high as usual, Ricki and Derek still look like a potential winning pair. But Monday night they’ll face their biggest challenge yet as all the remaining couples must complete three dances–two individual performances plus a cha cha relay.

“This has been a tough week with three full dances,” Derek admitted to about their rehearsals. Ricki will perform the Argentine tango and the samba along with the relay dance. While Derek said the Argentine tango is one of his favorite dances, it may not be easy for Ricki because “There’s lifts in it which Ricki is apprehensive about. She still has that big girl mentality—she feels very self-conscious whenever I go to lift her. There’s a lot of persuasion to do on my part to make her believe and trust I can lift her.”

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When asked how he’s been getting Ricki past her fears, Derek said, “Basically, by not giving her an option. She says, ‘oh…’ and I say, ‘nope, you’re doing it.’ If it doesn’t look good, we’ll just try something else but that’s the way I am—if I want to try something and if she’s not really sure about it, I just want to make it happen.”

As for their other dance, the three-time DWTS winning pro said, “It’s tough to get that samba hip action. I did a trick in the samba and [then] I decided to take it out. We’ll see.”

Derek’s strategy with Ricki has been to tell her to bask in the performances instead of obsessing on the scores. “I tell her, ‘when all is said and done, the most important thing is a year later, when you watch your dance back on YouTube, you go, ‘oh, that was good. I enjoyed that.’

“From day one, she’s been really hard on herself. In a way, it’s been good because she’s improved herself but I really wanted her to enjoy the experience. This week, we just focused on enjoying ourselves and having a fun time. It’s almost over.”

Ricki has danced with a rib injury for much of the season but is hanging tough. “She’s a 43-year-old woman and is doing all these crazy routines,” Derek commented. “She looks like a leopard; she’s got bruises all over her body—all over her hips, her knees. But she’s pushing through. She’s doing great.”

Derek, however, has been battling a really bad chest cough the past two weeks. “It’s like the worst cough I’ve ever had in my life. I guess I should go to the doctor and sort it out but I don’t really have much time. I’ll just get through it.”

Derek is also rising above controversy this season after US Weekly magazine claimed that he and fellow DWTS pro Maks were locked in a bitter feud. Discussing his relationship with Maks, Derek insisted to, “We’re great. We went out the other night together with [DWTS pro] Tony [Dovolani] and stuff and it was fine. At the end of the day, it’s a television show. People want drama. But I personally don’t like confrontation. I love everyone. I love people in general and I only want to be a positive person with anybody and everybody.” And hopefully, Derek and Ricki will channel all of their charm Monday night to be on top of the leader board again!

Meanwhile, Cheryl is looking forward to her semifinal performances with Rob. They have been a surprisingly strong pair all season, as two-time DWTS champ Cheryl has transformed Rob from geeky reality show brother and USC grad to a man of the world on the dance floor. “Rehearsals have been going good and we’ve really been focusing this week,” Cheryl told “We have three dances so we’ve been making sure we spent more time in the studio to really nail all of them.”

Like Ricki and Derek, Rob and Cheryl will be dancing the Argentine tango and the samba along with the cha cha relay. “The Argentine tango and samba are two completely different dances so you’ll see the contrast of Rob being sexy and Rob being super fun and shaking his butt,” she laughed. “I think it’s good. Rob definitely has a butt, so I say, why not use it?!”

Cheryl added, “He really loves the tango because I think he’s more of a serious guy so he really feels it. He likes all the different steps and music and really feels passionate about the actual song, so I think that helps.” The longtime dancer couldn’t reveal the songs they would be performing to on Monday, but said we can expect a lot of energy from their samba. “It’s definitely a party song so he’ll go from something serious and passionate to something really fun and exciting. In the samba, you’re going to see lots of hips moving and him having fun in the dance.”

Rob shocked many DWTS viewers last week by peaking at just the right time, getting a score of 27 for his quickstep. “Last week was amazing,” Cheryl recalled. “It was our highest score yet and I think Rob was really happy that he had improved again and that’s what our goal has been since the beginning, to make sure we improve every week and last week was his best so far.

“We want to hopefully get a ten this week, so we’re working hard at that.”

Going into the semifinals, Cheryl said, “I think his strength is that he picks up on the choreography so fast. He’s a quick learner. His weakness may be transforming from being serious in one dance to having fun in the other dance. It’s really important people see three sides of him in the three different dances.”

Cheryl said Rob is doing as well as can be expected physically: “I think we’re all so sore at this point but I think we have to push through it. Rob’s feet hurt all the time, his hamstrings are tight, but that’s just normal. It’s been eleven weeks straight of just dancing so your body breaks down. It’s really important to take breaks, especially when you’re doing three dances.”

The longtime DWTS star, who has trained many partners, said, “Rob is one of my favorites because he’s just a normal kid and we get along so well. We have a great balance between us. There are certain days where I freak out and he helps me calm down. He’s gained so much confidence throughout this competition.”

Cheryl said she isn’t thinking of winning—yet. “I really just want to make sure we make the finals because right now that’s the goal. If we’re there, then we’ll think about that.”

But win or lose, Cheryl said she’ll have to continue teaching Rob because he doesn’t want his lessons to end! “He told me he will definitely be continuing to dance with me, so I guess I have no choice!”

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