Dance studio

Fayetteville mourns the loss of Roland’s Dance Studio founder to COVID-19

Roland Bersch, founder of Roland’s Dance Studio, died of complications from COVID-19 on Friday, leaving behind a legacy of ballroom dancing.

Bersch was born in 1930 in Biloxi, Mississippi. When he was 17 he joined the army and traveled all over the United States and taught people how to dance. Bersch founded Roland’s Dance Studio, located at 310 Hope Mills Road, and has been in business for over 50 years.

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“He was a great ambassador for ballroom dancing and was able to participate in many opportunities to introduce volunteers,” said Drew Ziegler of the Cape Fear Ballroom Dancers. “He reportedly volunteered to coach dancers to perform at various events like Fayetteville Dancing with the Stars for several years. He would be very involved in this, usually while playing.

Ziegler added that Bersch was a great dancer and a social person; people loved being around him.

Bersch, who married twice, had five children.

Roland Bersch Jr. on November 14, 1988.

Bersch partially retired from the dance studio about 20 years ago, according to Sunday Rochelle Handley, his daughter.

She described her father as still happy, healthy and would have danced until he was 100 – which she says is one of the reasons why his death was rather shocking.

“Everybody in the COVID section was on ventilators and stuff like that,” Handley said. “He was breathing; he never even needed oxygen. So he was so healthy and I took him to the hospital on Boxing Day.

After:PHOTOS: Roland Bersch Jr., founder of Roland’s Dance Studio, 1930-2021

Handley said he contracted pneumonia, but COVID entered his kidneys and caused acute kidney failure.

She said she and her family are working to keep the studio going through the pandemic.

Instructor Roland Bersch, center, teaches a class of fifth graders a new dance step during the weekly ballroom dance class at TC Berrien Elementary School April 28, 2006.

“We’re a family that kind of works together even though the studio is closed,” she said. “There are a few lessons happening here and there; we’re trying to survive through this COVID stuff so we don’t take the studio too.

Many in the dance community mourn the loss of Bersch.

“I’ve been texting and emailing our club members, and the club is just devastated,” Ziegler said. “Everyone in the club reveres Roland, and it was a really tough time for the members because he was such an integral part of not only our club but also the ballroom dancing community. Probably half of Fayetteville learned to dance with him. Roland.

According to Handley, his father wanted to be remembered through dance and celebration.

Roland Bersch Jr. and his partner Susan Shereff dance during the Woman's Center of Fayetteville Dancing with the Fayetteville Stars on March 20, 2010.

“His last wishes were always to have a big party with his favorite New Orleans style music with a live trio band and everyone dancing, drinking, socializing and having fun instead of a service where people cry,” Handley said.

They plan to hold something like he wanted for his last wishes, but not until COVID-19 is clear and it’s safe for people to gather.

Editor Akira Kyles can be reached at [email protected]

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