Credit: Jesse Grant

On Dancing With the Stars 2013’s kickoff episode, there were plenty of impressive performances. For Season 17, Week 1, veteran pro Karina Smirnoff was more nervous than ever, and for good reason — it was her first time dancing Contemporary!

Thankfully, she had an experienced celebrity partner, as High School Musical’s Corbin Bleu danced through the franchise’s three films and was on Broadway. Many fans cried foul and claim he has an unfair advantage, but Karina was quick to clear the air at the DWTS after-party held at Mixology in the Grove.

“You know, usually in a normal season, we maybe have one or two people who have a dance background, but this season half the cast has dancing experience,” she explained exclusively to Wetpaint Entertainment. “And the other half, they bring more: personalities, fan bases, personal stories. I mean Leah Remini had Jennifer Lopez in the audience! Bill Nye is trending on Twitter. Everyone comes with a different advantage. It will be exciting to see how it goes; it’s the strongest season we’ve ever had.”

Moving forward, she’s just excited to dance with Corbin, who was her dream partner — she coveted him for four years!

“I’m so excited! I’ve wanted him as my partner for so long,” she exclaimed. “I met him about four years ago, we did a Make-A-Wish Foundation event together and we kept in touch and he’s just a class act, he’s funny and he’s so awesome. He’s just a guy you really want to be friends with. And I kept telling him, ‘You gotta do the show, you gotta do the show,’ but it was never the right time for him. He finally said yes to Season 17 and I finally got him as a partner!

Moving forward, they have a gameplan to take on the rest of the season: be entertaining with great routines … and pray a lot!

“We just hope we entertain people, we hope we come up with great routines, and we pray a lot,” she revealed. “We pray before and after the dance!”

What do you think of Karina and Corbin? Sound off below!

Reporting by Beth Sobol.