Aliya Has Passed Away

Dr. Janet Bernice Quinn, known in the dancing world as Aliya, passed away in the early morning of Saturday, July 19, 2008 after a brief but valiant seven week battle with lung cancer. She is survived by her husband, George D. Quinn, children Aleta and George W., mother Florence Gorcenski, brother Edward Gorcenski and sister Cynthia Kazmer.

What began in Watertown, Massachusetts as a gift of zills from her husband in the late 1970’s turned into a lifelong joy of Middle Eastern dance. Janet studied under noted Boston-area dance professionals, Nasrine (Nancy Barber) of Allston, Morwenna Assad, and Zabeide to name a few. Before long she was performing in Cambridge restaurants, and the dancer known as “Aliya” was born. She ran her own "Belly Belles" belly gram business. She helped form Club Cairo, a dancer’s collective - club in Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts that met every Friday night at the Joy of Movement center for years with live music, well known guest performers, and open dancing. 

Never a person to do anything at less than 110%, Janet went well beyond her early beginnings. Her love of dance and quest for knowledge took her literally around the world. A mere sampling of Aliya’s experiences: teaching workshops for the Boston Ballet and Goetz-Wulff Ballet Schule in Cologne, Germany; a national television performance for the Rhode Island Leukemia Foundation, performing alongside fire-jugglers and gymnasts of South Africa in “Africa Fest” held in Germany, seminars to the medical community on the benefits of belly dancing with childbirth, numerous club performances in Germany, France, and the Boston and DC areas of the United States. All this while raising two children and earning a Ph.D. in ceramic engineering.

After settling in Gaithersburg in 1991, Maryland, Aliya continued to perform, learn, and teach. A long-time member of the Washington Area Middle Eastern Dance Association (WAMEDA), she traveled annually to Egypt and Turkey to attend intensive dance-training programs. Learning regional-specific styles and local cabaret performance movements, Aliya brought home a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for this beautiful dance back home to her students. She even had time to train her daughter Aleta, a beautiful and well-known dancer in her own right. For over 30 years, she inspired countless women to find the dancer inside them. Founder of the Kismet Dancers, she continues to awaken the spirit of belly dancing even through her absence. They will forever be known as Aliya’s Kismet Dancers in her honor.

Janet will be remembered for her warm friendly smile, positive spirit, and selfless attitude.  


Alya (Janet) portrait.




Aliya (Janet) in red.