Like the Tasmanian Devil in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, Sherri Burke bursts through the door of her daughter's dance studio, flashes a big smile and extends her hand graciously.
"Hi, I'm Sherri," she says, pushing back a wisp of brown hair that has fallen into her eyes, thanks to the Santa Ana winds outside.
And so begins the meeting with Burke, 56, mom to two-time Dancing with the Stars champ Cheryl Burke, 27.
Dressed in a bright fuchsia blazer and black slacks, Sherri had flown in a few hours earlier to attend a luncheon and then made her weekly visit to oversee the She lives in the Bay Area with her second husband—a dentist—and their younger daughter, Nicole, 18.
"It's been a busy day already, and I still have to get up to L.A. for a meeting," she says, taking a seat. "I'm going to try and see the show tonight. I try to go to all of the shows whenever Cheryl is going to be on."
She says that she has always been very close to Cheryl and that they "share a special bond."
"Cheryl, as a teenager, had a connection with me, and that's difficult to do with a teenager," she says. "We have a common love for dance. I am not anywhere close to her level, though. My mom was a P.E. teacher in high school in a little town in the Philippines. She was ahead of her time. She never taught sports but always looked at dancing as a sport."
Sherri adds that every woman who had gone to public school in the town knew her mom.
"They always say they remember my mom and comment, 'We know who Cheryl took after—her grandmother,' " she says.
Sherri says that as a kid herself—at the age of 5—she would tag along with her mom to school because there were no babysitters to watch her.
"This is where my love of dancing started," says Sherri, who was one of seven children. "I was so fascinated that my mom could create a story based on movements. This was actually choreography, and I would go home and do the routine."
She describes the family home as "a Spanish-style, run-down place," but one that had a huge hardwood floor in the family room that was perfect for dance.
Her dad, however, had "two left feet," and it looks like her husband has repeated history.
"I know what she now felt with my dad—my husband definitely has two left feet," she laughs. "We dragged him to the dance floor when we saw Cheryl was becoming more and more interested when she was in high school.
"When Cheryl sees him dance, she kids him and asks how many times he has taken the basics."
And while she does keep up with her famous daughter's performances, Sherri is a star in her own right.
A Nursing Background
As a registered nurse, Sherri was working in the critical-care unit at UC San Francisco Medical Center in the early 1980s when she envisioned an opportunity to fill a need for temporary nurses and caregivers for elderly, hospitalized patients.
"I grew up taking care of my grandparents," she says. "We don't have nursing homes in the Philippines. That's when I became interested in the field. It became a passion after my grandmother died and I became close with my grandfather."
Her vision became a reality in 1984, when she founded Nurse Providers Inc., a venture that evolved into a multimillion-dollar home health service company, now called Professional Healthcare at Home (PHH).
After earning her MBA from Notre Dame de Namur University, she systematically expanded PHH. Realizing the graying of America would boost company growth, she recapitalized PHH in 2006 through a private equity firm. She turned her company over to a new management team but continues to serve on the board of PHH.
Sherri came out of semiretirement when Cheryl consulted her about starting a business that would promote physical fitness through dance in 2008.
The mother and daughter team opened the first Cheryl Burke Dance studio in 2008. Cheryl Burke Dance LLC owns and operates two studios in California: one in Mountain View—in the Silicon Valley—and the other in Laguna Niguel. Both studios will provide dance lessons to underprivileged communities this summer. Later this month, the studio will teach dance to students from Bergeson Elementary School.
"We loved Laguna Niguel when we were looking for a second place to open a studio," she says. "We love it here, and people have embraced us. It's such a young, developing community, and it is a great location. We're now in our second year, and it's like being in the country because it's so beautiful and open."
Sherri has chaired fundraising events for Seton Medical Foundation and Ayala Foundation USA, a nonprofit that supports social development for the less fortunate in the Philippines. She is also involved with Peninsula Volunteers, a provider of low-cost housing and food delivery to indigent seniors on the San Francisco Peninsula.
A Dancing Queen
During Sherri's years of dance training, she became a competitive amateur ballroom dancer and a consistent finalist in the Open Pro-Am division of American-style ballroom dance in the senior category.
"I love to compete, but I don't do what Cheryl does—more at the geriatric level," she jokes. "It's a senior competition, and more smooth. It's American-style ballroom dancing—fox-trot, tango, waltz—all the dances for the older people. Think Lawrence Welk. But it works for me, and I will never give up dancing."