Mario Takes Early Lead as Men Kick Off DWTS Competition

Mario Takes Early Lead as Men Kick Off DWTS Competition
BOB D'AMICO/ABC

03/18/2008 AT 12:00 AM EDT

R&B singer Mario, the youngest celebrity on season 6 of Dancing with the Stars, grabbed an early lead Monday when he and his professional partner Karina Smirnoff danced the cha cha cha on the opening night of competition, which featured the six male contestants. (The women perform Tuesday.)

Mario and Karina earned 24 points, getting eight from each of the judges.

"You can dance!" Carrie Ann Inaba told Mario. "Ladies, this is the standard you're going to have to watch out for. We want to see this on the dance floor."

Bruno Tonioli agreed: "You are a great dancer and a great performer and great to watch."



Len Goodman offered him a little advice as well as praise, telling him to "work on your footwork."

Backstage, host Samantha Harris asked Mario about any previous dance experience he may have had as an R&B singer and whether he had an unfair advantage. "I've had no formal dance experience," he told Harris. "I'm sure if I had formal dance experience I would have caught the moves much better."

Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor also had a good night, earning 22 points for his fox trot with Edyta Sliwinska while Chilean actor Christián de la Fuente scored 21 out of 30.

None of the other men earned more than 20 points. The night's lowest score went to radio host Adam Carolla and his professional partner -- and reigning champ -- Julianne Hough.

Tell us: Whose performance did you like the best? Who should be the first man to go home? BOB D'AMICO/ABC

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