DWTS: Mario Says He and Karina Have a ‘Good Shot’ at Winning

DWTS: Mario Says He and Karina Have a ‘Good Shot’ at Winning
Rebecca Sapp/WireImage

03/13/2008 AT 12:00 AM EDT

Dancing with the Stars viewers may feel like they're experiencing déjà vu when they tune into Monday's premiere and hear Karina Smirnoff introduced with dance partner Mario.

It's not a repeat of season 3, when Smirnoff took now boyfriend Mario Lopez all the way to the finals. For season 6, Karina has been paired with multi-platinum recording artist and actor Mario, who seems to know just how lucky he is to slip on the Cuban heels with the dark-haired dynamo. "She has a lot of energy, a lot of personality," the singer says of his Ukrainian-born dance partner. "And I have to keep up with her all day, twenty-four-seven. And when she's dragging just a little bit, I'm like, 'Oh, thank you God!' "

Mario, who was launching his charity, the Mario Do Right Foundation, at a Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club, admits that it hasn't been all paso dobles and praise. "I'll have it that day, and the next day I'll come back and I'll remember it, but I won't do it with the same intensity. She'll get upset, and then I'll get upset," he tells PEOPLE. "So, we kind of butt heads, but overall, I think we got a good shot at taking it all the way."

Beyond being the diligent dance student, Mario is confident enough to pass on some of his own knowledge. He says of their second dance -- the hip-hugging quickstep: "It's almost like dancing on the ocean because you are constantly going up and down like waves, and we're riding the waves, so I've been teaching her about the 'motion in the ocean.' "

Not that the other Mario has anything to fear, as this Mario seems to know his boundaries. "I respect Mario, for him being on the show and doing a great job," the singer says, "but as far as me and Karina goes, we're working really hard to get that trophy." That being said, this is a competition, and Mario couldn't help comparing himself to Lopez's past. "I dropped her once," he admits, before quickly adding, "but not as bad as Mario (Lopez) dropped her on her head. I'm just saying, there was a drop there." --Reagan AlexanderRebecca Sapp/WireImage

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