November 7, 2021

How To Get What You Really Want

by Magna Gopal

Do you ever hear a song and know exactly who you want to dance with, but someone else asks you? 

What’s your reaction? Be honest. The immediate and initial reaction in my head is usually some variation of “dammit!” because I wanted something and I didn’t get it.

When I attend a regular social and I hear a song that I like, I usually ask whoever is in my vicinity. Sometimes I ask someone I know who can flow with that style of music and with me. Sometimes I ask a friend who I haven’t yet asked. And sometimes, I’ll ask someone completely new. Contrary to popular belief, I am usually the one asking and I’m very quick about it. As a result, I’m rarely available for someone to ask me.

When it’s an atypical night out, a special occasion, where there are a ton of people I haven’t seen in a while, with whom I also have a great dance connection, I find myself seeking them out for dances multiple times throughout the night. I feel like I’m making up for lost time and trying to get in a few more just in case I don’t see them for another long while.

This past Friday was one of those special occasions. It was the 8 Year Anniversary of the Candela Fridays Social, hosted by my friend DJ Alex Gonzalez. There there were so many faces I hadn’t seen in over a year, so naturally, my preferred dancer checklist was long.

On two occasions, Alex played a song I absolutely had to dance to. Based on the dancers I knew in attendance, I already had my top 3. With the first song, I asked two dancers but they had already said yes to someone else. Before I could ask anyone else, someone I didn’t know asked me to dance. I accepted the request.

On the second occasion, it was the last song of the night, and I must have asked at least 6 dancers who were all taken by the time I got to them. The frustration was real and it was occasionally expressed with an audible “arrgh.” I really wanted to dance that last song, but no one I wanted to dance with was available. As I was still scanning the room, someone I had never seen before, asked me to dance. I said “Sure!”

railroad tracks in city
Photo by Pixabay on

Both of these dancers were not my first picks, or even my third, yet they ended up being exactly what I wanted: fun, playful, musical connections.

And it was only possible because of the following 3 steps.

1 My commitment to my decision

Yes, I wanted to dance with someone else, many someone elses to be exact, but, when I said “yes,” I committed to that decision. I didn’t pout. I didn’t regret my decision. I wasn’t thinking of a way out. I wasn’t thinking of who I would dance with next.

I was 100% present with my partner.

2 Our commitment to each other.

My commitment to my partner was there as soon as I said yes, but my partners’ commitment to me wasn’t there initially, even though they asked me to dance.

Partner #1

My first partner was visibly and tangibly nervous. I could feel it in his connection, his lead and his general aura. I later learned that he knew of my long salsa career and my TED Talk. I am guessing the initial nerves might have been for those reasons. Perhaps he was wondering if I would enjoy the dance, if his lead was good enough, if his moves were engaging and interesting.

However, the more connected he was with those thoughts, the less connected he was with me. 

As I continued my attempts to connect with him, to show him that I didn’t care about fancy moves, and that I was enjoying myself, and eventually he changed his focus to me and us. It was only then that the dance got really playful, musical and creative.

Partner #2

My second partner at the end of the night might not have been nervous but I could sense that he might have felt rejected, even though I said yes. Maybe it was because he saw me asking a ton of people around him, but not him. Perhaps it was the split second that my mind was still scanning the room before I said sure. It could have been the way I said sure or the way he interpreted my “sure.”

Either way, once we started dancing, his energy felt slightly defeated. The eye contact and confidence that existed when he asked me was no longer present. He looked at the ground and everywhere else but never at me.

It was the last song of the night, so I didn’t want to waste it by following his energy and disconnecting further. I made an extra effort to connect, play, smile, and make eye contact. Eventually, he shifted his focus from whatever was on his mind to enjoying the dance with me. We had a few really creative fails that we were both able to laugh at, and ultimately finished the dance with a genuine smile and a hug.

Just because you don’t get what you’re looking for, doesn’t mean you don’t get what you want.

3 Redirecting my Focus

Before I said yes to these two dancers, my focus was on who I wanted to dance with and who I believed would give me the dance that I wanted. I went around the room asking, trying to find the who of my choice. When these dancers, who were not on my radar, asked and I said yes, the who I was going to dance with was resolved. To have the dance that I wanted, I had to then focus on what was actually important to me. Yes, I wanted a specific partner, but ultimately, what I really wanted was to have fun, be playful, creative, musical, and connected with my partner, the person I said yes to.

Having a fun and enjoyable dance is like a destination. We might have a preferred path, but there are many paths to the same destination. They might take longer. They might not be as smooth. But they can all lead to the same place, IF we commit to taking a step. Getting on the path only to stop and wonder if it’s worth the effort, is not going to get us anywhere.

Mpowered Reflections

  • Do you say yes when maybe you should have said no?
  • Once you say yes, how do you follow through?
  • Do you know what you actually want?
  • In the pursuit of what you want, are you blocking yourself from getting it by focusing too much on the who or the how?

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!


If you enjoyed this or know someone who could benefit from this information, please share and tag me so we can continue the discussion.  You can also show your support through Ko-Fi.


  1. Byanca

    I love this article Magna, we all have our favorite dancers as you said. I’ve learned in the recent past once I say yes to a dance to make the best of it and enjoy it.
    I also realized once my mindset is changed from: Ohhh I wish the other person invited me to: Because I love to dance I will try to connect to my dance partner and enjoy this dance experience with them, and it helped me either practice more of what I know or learn something new.

    • Magna Gopal

      Thank you for sharing your comment here, Byanca! And I love that you have also taken this approach. As I mentioned to someone else, our happiness and enjoyment is a matter of mindset which is always available to us.

  2. Ernie Rangel

    Magna Gopal, Wow! beautifully written and completely nailed it! The subject matter is something we can all relate to. As every dancer knows, this is a very common situation on the dance floor, and you have provided the proper perspective for every new dancer and a great reminder for all. Thank you Magna!

    • Magna Gopal

      Thank you very much, Ernie! I am glad to be of service and I hope that not only will this open the discussion in a constructive fashion but also empower everyone to take ownership of their own enjoyment.

  3. Emily

    I had the epiphany recently that what was holding me back from really enjoying my social dances was that I was too caught up in being approved of by my leads. I wanted them to be pleased by my abilities and not disrupt them. It meant that I wouldn’t style or play with newer leads (because I didn’t want to throw them off) and I was intimidated by the more advanced dancers and often wouldn’t even ask them to dance. When I switched my mindset to just focusing on my own enjoyment of the dance everything really shifted. I was happier after a night of dancing and I’m pretty sure my leads had more fun too.

    • Magna Gopal

      Thanks for sharing, Emily. It really is all about mindset. What we get out of a moment is often dependent on what we want to get out of it. Over the decades that I’ve been dancing, I’ve realized that happiness and enjoyment are always accessible to me, if I choose them. Glad you’ve had that epiphany too! 😊💪

  4. Amanda

    It’s super difficult when your FAVOURITE song comes on + someone asks and your experience with their dancing from previous occasions is that they may not give you the social dance experience you it then ok to say “no can we dance another song?” Or should we smile and try to see where it goes?

    • Magna Gopal

      Great question. I’ve had that happen and it really depends on the song & who’s around. If I love the song, I’ll want to dance, regardless bc dancing itself makes me happy. If I see someone I’d rather dance with, I’ll politely decline and be honest and say, I’m actually looking for someone. If I want to dance with that person, I’ll offer the next song. If I don’t, I’ll end it at that.

  5. Nataly Salsaholic

    Thank you so much for shearing all these thoughts with us ❤️
    I totally agree with everything!!!
    I almost never say no to a dance, expect for the 0,001% that the guy is drunk or when it’s obvious that he has something else on his mind! I also say yes even when I know that the guy is a totally beginner and I know he’s going to do the basic for the next 3 minutes! Once upon a time I was a beginner too…
    So, sometimes I regret saying yes 🤷🏻‍♀️
    Mostly when my partner is off bit all the time 😖
    Basically I try to enjoy the dance, follow the leader even when it looks impossible 🙃 and stay safe (of hitting) at the same time. And most of the times I manage to succeed!
    There are also a few times (thankfully only a few) when I get distracted and not so happy… but I always get mad with myself if this happens… because then it’s too late to fix it….
    When a dance is ok, there is a smile and feels safe is a perfect dance!!!

    • Magna Gopal

      Thank you so much for commenting here! I used to feel like sometimes it’s too late to fix it but I’ve learned that it’s rarely ever too late. If you can own up, apologize, and ask again, usually that person let’s go of the past experience. 😊

  6. Jennifer

    I love this. Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your experiences.

    • Magna Gopal

      Thank you so much for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed it! ❤️

  7. Yvette

    Thanks for this!! I can’t believe you’re the one doing most of the asking….

    • Magna Gopal

      Thank you for the comment, Yvette! Yes, it’s surprising to everyone when I tell them that. I guess I have no patience to wait for someone to ask me, so I end up being the first to ask.

      • Jennifer

        Magna, I need to learn from you and ask more often. On the other hand, I see more and more men are just standing there waiting on someone to ask them to dance

        • Magna Gopal

          I think that might be because there are usually more women than men at most events. So the demand for them is higher. But also, their level might affect their desire to ask. If they’re beginners, they might be nervous. If they’re pro, they might be cocky. So many factors. That’s why when I want to dance, I don’t waste time trying to figure people out. I just ask. 😊

  8. Elizabeth

    Magna Gopal – I totally get it.

    I have been creating my own dance card since I first started out on the scene and just never stopped.

    I play a game of leaving on a high note so if I have a bad dance – I quickly grab a partner that I can rely on for an awesome dance. 😁

    • Magna Gopal

      Thanks for sharing, my lady! ❤️❤️❤️

  9. John G

    I’ve said yes when I want to say no, but yes on a should say no? May not be exactly a yes but I’ve entertained an inebriated partner or two to keep them from hurting themselves or others.
    For some of us it’s so easy to get caught in thoughts and show nerves. Not so much with local dancers, but certainly with someone like Magna I want to run and hide! You hit the nail saying that once you’re in the moment keep it fun and playful. That’s a motto for dance and life!

    • Magna Gopal

      Glad you enjoyed the article and the message! And we all thank you for taking one for the team and taking care of an inebriated partner. 🙂


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