Even though Cheryl Burke’s celebrity has soared on “Dancing With The Stars” — she’s a two-time champ — she chuckles about how she sauntered into a buzz-generating stint in the touring show of “Forever Tango,” which hits the Marine Memorial Theatre in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Suddenly she realizes, “Now, I’m the student.”
Burke was a master at ballroom and other dance forms, but an expert on Argentine tango? Not so much. After solidifying a deal to appear in the show, Burke, upon advice from “Tango” director Luis Bravo, trekked to Argentina where she learned the authentic dance form.
“I had to work really hard and focus,” she says of the grueling three-week rehearsals. “I had to learn from the beginning — from learning how to walk and the Argentine tango hold and really just interpreting the music.”
But it was certainly worth the sweat. The Bay Area-native had a personal investment in being in the show. Burke was first inspired to further pursue dance after seeing a touring production of “Forever Tango” in The City when she was a kid.
“I’ve been ballroom dancing since I was 11 years old, ballet since I was 4,” she says, “but ‘Forever Tango’ inspired me to learn how to dance, especially partner dancing, and from then on, it’s been something I really wanted to do.”
It’s also been something millions want to see.
The original production was cheered by San Francisco audiences in 1994. It played an unprecedented 92 weeks. It later hit Broadway in 1997 and played for 14 months.
Bravo, its creator and director, was revered for how well he featured world-renowned dancers with musicians and for how it morphed into a hypnotic show-stopping sensation. It’s now the longest running tango show in Broadway history. It last graced The City back in 2008.
Bravo’s outing has 12 dancers, a vocalist and an 11-piece onstage orchestra, including the bandoneón — an accordion-like instrument that is a staple in tango music. Music, dance and vignettes trace the tango’s history — from the bordellos to acceptance in society.
“Argentine tango is very detailed,” Burke says. “It’s not just about learning the steps. It’s about how you move from foot to foot; how you interact with your partner. Every single thing you do has to tell a story and it has to be clear to the people that are watching.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Marines Memorial Theatre, 608 Sutter St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Jan. 7; 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Dec. 24 and Jan. 2; 7 and 9 p.m. Dec. 31; no show Christmas day; closes Jan. 9
Tickets: $45 to $250 for New Year’s Eve
Contact: (415) 771-6900, www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com