Dancing with the Stars Frontrunners Size Up the Competition

03/20/2012 at 10:45 AM EDT

Mark Ballas

Mark Ballas

It's anybody's mirror-ball trophy this season on Dancing with the Stars.

"This is the highest level of dancing I think we've had," pro Kym Johnson, partnered with Family Matters star Jaleel White, tells PEOPLE. The pair tied with Katherine Jenkins and pro Mark Ballas with the high scores of the premiere night, 26 points.

Adds her partner, White: "The competition is going to be so real, I just don't want to think about that for a while."

Despite their dazzling finish as early frontrunners, Ballas says Jenkins, a Welsh singer, was nervous about taking to the ballroom for the first time.

"I said, 'Just go out there and have fun,' " he recalls. "We got out on the floor and she went up 10 gears. Everybody went up 10 gears from dress rehearsal to the show."

He adds: "Out of all of the seasons – I've been on 10 of them now – this is probably going to be the highest caliber of dancing, and, at the end of the day, it is a dance show."

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