The single-named R&B singing sensation, Mario, also became a talented ballroom dancer this season on Dancing with the Stars. Partnered with professional dancer, Karina Smirnoff, Mario heated up the dance floor especially with the Latin styles. One of their highlight performances was the rumba from week 6, which earned them their highest score of the competition, a 28 out of 30.
Other than Dancing with the Stars, Mario keeps busy promoting his album and rehearsing for his upcoming tour. He took the time to talk to BuddyTV about his experience on Dancing with the Stars, and finally laid to rest the rumors about a possible secret romance between himself and Karina. Below, you will find an audiofile and a complete transcript of the interview.
This is Debbie at BuddyTV and today I’m talking to the R&B heartthrob and ballroom dancer extraordinaire, Mario. Hey, how’s it going?
Ballroom dancer extraordinaire!
Thank you very much, Debbie. I’m good, I’m good, right. How are you?
I’m good, too. So congratulations on making it so far in Dancing with the Stars. I actually thought that you would be making it farther. How do you feel about how you did?
Well first off I feel like Dancing with the Stars is not a strictly dance show. If you can really dance, you being on the show, you may not make it that far. Some of the better dancers on that show didn’t even make it to the fifth week. But I feel like I had a great time, I feel like I learned a lot about myself on a creative level. Where I can go creatively now with dance is pretty cool. I feel like America sat down and had dinner with me every Monday and Tuesday night and it was pretty cool to have that type of audience, who I’m sure really don’t listen to R&B or go out to buy records at stores anymore, but now they know a little bit about the R&B world and hopefully they’ll continue to be fans of that world.
Is that why you decided to go on the show?
That’s part of the reason why but also just to be, the same reason I went into film, I wanted to try something new and I knew the show wouldn’t take too much time out of my schedule. Even though I had an album out in stores and a top five record, I knew that I could still do both. I ended up having to cut a lot of time out of my album promotion, though, because of how stressful this show was becoming, like in terms of learning these dances every week and having only four days to learn it. Every hour that you take away is detrimental to your routine.
What was your schedule like? I know that some of the other performers spent so much time rehearsing, but you have such a lot of stuff going on, so what was your rehearsal schedule like?
My rehearsal schedule was ridiculous. I’d rehearse 12 hours. When I travel out of town and come back and have a day and a half or two days to learn a dance, I’d rehearse 12 hours a day. Or more.
Wow. Oh my gosh.
It was tough.
Well, when you were on stage it looked great, so good job on that.
Thank you very much.
You’ve had some hip hop dance experience in your music videos. Do you think that hurt you or helped you in ballroom, because it’s like a completely different style?
It didn’t hurt me and it definitely didn’t help me, because people expected me to already know how to dance. “He’s a great dancer, he’s going to be great in ballroom.” What they don’t realize is I was having more fun that anything up there. I was going out there and expressing myself through the dance more than anything. One of the other things is that Karina’s a great teacher, I’ll admit. She really, really knows how to partner. Before we met, I didn’t really know how to dance, she made me somewhat look like a ballroom dancer. For me I was just so with it, I was excited about doing it. Every week it was a new routine so I felt like I was starting over and starting with something fresh. That’s where it got tough, too, like really having all these moves and dances in your muscle memory, like your muscle gets tired just like your brain does and it shuts down sometimes. And when that happened, it was the first time I actually noticed how my body works. I learned a lot about my body doing this show because my muscles would literally shut down and get cramped up from walking. That’s when it got really tough. She gave me a few tips on how to get around that type of stuff, but ultimately I think it was what it was. I didn’t think it hurt me, I didn’t think it helped me either.
I think a lot of people who don’t dance don’t really understand how physical it is. Did you have any trouble, did you have any small injuries or anything like that?
Second week I pulled my hamstring. It actually happened around the same time Karina had to go and get her surgery. She had to go and get neck surgery because she pulled a nerve, she slipped a disk or something. That same week I pulled my hamstring, so we were both gone for about three days. The good thing was we still had like two more weeks to learn the routine for the first dance, so we were pretty cool. But that’s pretty much the only injury. I had another injury that was very small. I hurt my foot from flipping off the stage on the routine and I didn’t end up doing it. Actually I did do it, I did it on … what dance was that, was it the quickstep? No, not quickstep. What was the dance, what is the dance. what is that dance called? Anyway, I flipped off the stage and the day before I hurt myself but I still pulled it off that day. That was the only two injuries. But look at the show, when you have an injury you end up getting more votes, so maybe I should have hurt myself.
So how about Karina, you guys had just crazy chemistry.
Everybody says that!
It’s true! Was there any truth to the rumors that there was a secret romantic relationship between you? I have to ask!
[Singing] Secret lovers, that’s what we are. Nah, it was totally professional. It was a lot of fun and I think that our chemistry definitely added to this suspicion of our secret romance. But it was just strictly entertainment, that’s all.
What was your favorite performance?
On the show my favorite performance was the rumba. It was fun, man, it was more my style than anything. It was sexy, it was sensual, it was charming, it was all of that. And I felt like I liked showing that side of myself. She just let me be, she’s like let it just do you in this dance and don’t worry about technique too much, just feel it and just remember the steps and where I showed you, and then you’ll be good. And that’s exactly what I did, I had fun with it. My other favorite dance, I have to admit I hated the actual ballroom dance like foxtrot and Viennese waltz, but one of my favorite dances was also the Viennese waltz. I really enjoyed it, surprisingly.
You and all the other performers, it seemed really fun backstage, you were all just hanging out and cheering each other on. What was the vibe like? Are you all really good friends like that?
I wouldn’t say all. But for the most part, most of the contestants, especially in the first couple of weeks, it was all fun and games. It was like, you know, whatever. But when it got down, when it was getting closer, there was a little bit of tension, a little bit. It’s tough, because you don’t want to go home. At the same time you’ve got to cheer on every contestant. You can’t take it too personal. But there was a little bit of tension at times, yeah. Just a little bit.
So Kristi Yamaguchi right out of the gate just performed so well. Did you and Karina develop any plans or did you have a strategy on how to overtake her?
Our strategy to overtake Kristi was to stay consistent. I think that one thing that she did was she stayed consistent. Our strategy was to continue to build on our chemistry and continue to make every dance special every week and to have something that stood out. What Kristi also did was she had something that stood out in her dances. Like you would see a partner dance that was like, “Oh, we love that, we won’t forget that. Everyone should have that, too.” That was pretty much it. Obviously I had my own demon I was facing with Mr. Len [Goodman]. Every week he had a new critique for me. I wished he had more constructive criticism instead of just his own personal comments that he wanted to make to get the crowd to laugh, but he was definitely keeping me on my feet.
I know you have a ton of other stuff going on. Can you tell us about what you’re up to these days?
Absolutely. Right now I’m rehearsing for tour every day, I’m actually going to rehearse as soon as we finish. This tour starts June 12, my fans can go and also check it out at mario2u.com if they want to come for dates. It starts in St. Louis. In conjunction with that tour I’m doing my Mario Do Right Foundation tour. In every city I perform in I will be also hitting Boys and Girls Clubs and talking to the kids about drugs and substance abuse and how to deal with those dreams and overcome their obstacles. Have it really be a place where they can come and just talk and express themselves
So you started this foundation to help kids who are in similar situations to what you grew up in.
Absolutely, absolutely. It’s tough being a kid of a parent who deals with substance abuse issues. A lot of times you can think it’s your fault, you don’t know why or why God has put this burden on you, or your mother or father or uncle, whoever. Somebody that you care about. For me, it ran in the family. For me to be able to escape from those hard times and issues and become successful, to do something that you love to do and be able to touch the world with a gift, it’s very rare that that happens. My way of giving back is to help someone else who’s going through the same thing.
That’s really great, it’s just great to see people care about kids like that these days. So thanks for all your good work.
BuddyTV, we’re in Seattle, will you be hitting Seattle on your tour?
I will definitely be hitting Seattle. You can get the dates on my website mario2u.com or myspace.com/mariojrecords. We’ll definitely be coming. If we’re not coming to Seattle, I know we’re coming close to Seattle. If you want to be involved we’ll even come to one of the events with the foundation, mariodoright.org. E-mail us your information and we’ll e-mail you the address to the city that you’re in.
-Interview conducted by Debbie Chang
(Image courtesy of ABC)