Mario on Dancing Partner Karina: ‘We Just Click’

Mario on Dancing Partner Karina: ‘We Just Click’
Rebecca Sapp/WireImage

03/24/2008 AT 12:00 AM EDT

Dancing with the Stars pro Karina Smirnoff has to be asking, "What's a in a name?" Season 6 is only a week old, but fans are already looking at the second pairing of a Mario and Karina (the first being her boyfriend, and season 3 runner-up, Mario Lopez) as one of the couples to watch in the ballroom. The R&B star certainly looked like a Super Mario Tuesday, wowing the judges with a spicy cha cha cha on the opening night of competition and looking very cozy with Karina. PEOPLE caught up with the flirtatious frontrunner to find out about the chemistry in the ballroom, what the other Mario thinks about it and who he sees as his biggest competition. --Jonathan Stern

Why do you think you and Karina have such wonderful chemistry together? The cha cha is a very flirtatious dance, and that's what we tried to give them. Karina's a great teacher, a beautiful girl, and we just click. Her love and passion for dance is as strong as mine is for singing, so I understand her in that sense.

How does Mario Lopez feel about you taking his girl for a whirl? I don't know what's going on between them. I'm out of the loop. But I saw him in the building and we talked. He didn't seem any type of way about it.

You look super friendly on the floor, but we hear there is some frustration in the rehearsal studio?Sometimes Karina can get really loud and demanding and I don't take that too well. I know she's doing it with good intentions so I just try to be a good partner. She already knows the dance so I have to get there with her and learn it.



Who looks to be your biggest competition this season?Jason Taylor. I was expecting him to be stiff as a wall. And Kristi Yamaguchi is a force to be reckoned with. I think ballroom dancing is more convenient for her than it is for me, just because of her experience as a figure skater. I'm not taking anything away from her because I think she did an incredible job. Triple nine is a great score. She's gotta keep coming with it.

What are you going to be performing next?Mario and Karina are dancing the quick step. It's very hard. There's lot of motion in the ocean. It's almost like riding a wave. I have to be the glass and Karina is the water. Rebecca Sapp/WireImage

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