"I think with adrenaline, we didn't position ourselves the best way," Smirnoff tells PEOPLE of her contemporary dance

By Karina Smirnoff
September 23, 2013 03:35 PM
Credit: Adam Taylor/ABC

Karina Smirnoff is a former Dancing with the Stars champion, winning the coveted mirror-ball trophy in season 13 with J.R. Martinez. The longtime competitor will blog for PEOPLE about competing with former High School Musical star Corbin Bleu in season 17.

I feel great right now. I think we're in a great place. I thought our contemporary routine was pretty cool and I thought we nailed what Corbin [Bleu] and I wanted to do. It showed potential and it showed that there's room to grow. We wanted to take some risks with lifts and I think overall, it paid off. We were in the second position with Val [Chmerkovskiy] and Elizabeth [Berkley]. I think that's a great place to start.

I think, though, if we were able to do this dance later on in the season, we would have been able to a better job with it, because we would have been more used to each other and each other's timing and body weight. It's hard to gauge scoring. I wonder if they're judging us against other couples or against contemporary dances done in previous seasons? You can't control what the judges do, but you can control what you put out there.

With this dance, there was very little room for error. If we were a little too aggressive or a little too mellow, we could have wiped out and the lift would have been a disaster. That's where the nerves came in. We were a little shaky on that lift, because I think with adrenaline, we didn't position ourselves the best way. Usually in rehearsal, the lift would be solid.

But I think for the first dance, Corbin did amazing. I take my hat off to him for even attempting such difficult choreography. We went for it, and since it was my first contemporary, I wanted to make sure we didn't take the easy route. I think he nailed it.

For our next dance, the jive, we got a song that is very young in spirit and energy. We thought it would be a perfect opportunity to pay homage to High School Musical, which put Corbin on the map. I'm just concerned because I haven't been in high school for 15 years. I don't want to look like the naughty teacher who does inappropriate things to students.

In the beginning, the dance was not as good as I was hoping it would be. But now I think we're getting it down and I'm excited! I'm going to be like a high school nerd. I asked if I could keep my costume until after Halloween.