Get To Know A Bellydancer: Shaila



Shaila Khan / Shai Latte

Where are you from?

I was born in Kenya, and moved to Toronto when I was two.

Astrological Sign?


Who do you dance with (Soloist/Company/Studio affiliation)?

I am both a student and one of the teachers at Om Laila. I also dance in a un-named troupe as well, which is largely influenced by Roula Said’s choreographies. We are still on a hunt for a badass name!! I also enjoy teaching workshops and more recently doing my own gigs you check my website here :

What is your favourite music?

For concentration/inspiration I default music is the chill vibes of old school beat makers and new ones that incorporate jazz electronic synths, soul and hiphop so everything from J Dilla to Nujabes. For the dancefloor I need some old school hip hop and dance hall and deep house. I also love fusion electronic world music especially sufi inspired sounds of Mercan Dede and Niyaz.

Favourite costume piece?

My mom recently helped me with a tribal fusion outfit that has emerald mermaid skirt and with a vintage fringe belt and rustic coppery beads and accents (and I painfully studded the bra myself) so it was really a labour of love, especially because my mom is the cutest brown aunty of them all!

Your Vices?

  • Chocolate.
  • Turning every photo into a meme
  • Chocolate. It needs to be mentioned twice.
  • Recreating Much Music’s Electric Circus 1996 sessions in the bathroom mirror
  • Drake (both the hotel’s brunch and the rapper)

Your Virtues?

  • I like adding lightness to things, especially dance, because it can get so serious, especially in performance mode – an impromptu 10 second twerk session never hurt anyone!
  • I have been really practicing my FACE, its important to deliver energy to the audience not only by killing your choreography, but gifting the love of what you do to the audience. Breathe and Smize – even if its a serious piece your genuine emotions are what people soak in. RuPaul says it the best “And If I fly or if I fall, at least I can say I gave it all.

Upcoming project/event?

I am in an awesome troupe with Elizabeth Redmond and Kaleena Lawless – not to mention working with dancers/singers of Om Laila . Our current project (*other than dancing it up at every opportunity we get and learning new choreographies) it that we need a name!

I am also one of the dance teachers at Om Laila, which is probably my most favourite thing ever. Starting another session March 7. Details can be found or my website will have updates as well.

Why bellydance?

Because it a portal for self-discovery beyond just the physical level. There are so many factors that have kept me on this path for so long. It is both sensuality of the movement, the discipline in learning new technique and the amazing community and connections you build. It might sound cheesy, but it really is those moments when you start realizing that your body, mind and spirit have finally overcome big barriers and then you start feeling like… wow, how did I get this awesome? Where was I my whole life? I have just started recently teaching and I have to say it is my favourite part. I am loving being a part others self-discovery and journey into this magical world.

Who inspires you?

I could probably make a huge list and include all the people in the last 8 years as well as key figures in the global community that have been inspirational and supportive. I would say the first pioneers for me were Roula Said, Meagan Shields and Ioana Timaru .These were the first women who taught me and I love their unique philosophies, approach, as well how they integrate emotions and technique to teach stories. It was nothing like the steady diet of Bollywood and Shakira music videos I grew up on. I am inspired by everyone who gives 100% heart, whether its new beginners performing at a hafla or my various talented colleagues, it’s all about the love of dance.