By Dominique Jando
A baton twirler of great talent, Norman Crider (1938-2009) is perhaps best remembered in the United States for his long tenure at the ‘’The Ballet Shop’’, at Broadway and 63rd Street near Lincoln Center in New York City—a well-known hub for dancers, choreographers, and collectors of ballet memorabilia and books; from time to time, the shop also offered rare and precious circus prints and other wonderfully selected circus artifacts.
He was born August 29, 1938, in Lordsburg, New Mexico, where he spent his childhood, and had completed two years of college by the age of 17. But ballet was his true passion, and he wanted to be a dancer; unfortunately, there was no ballet school in Lordsburg—and certainly not, at that time, for young boys! To satisfy his love of performing, Norman learned baton-twirling, and went on to become the American champion and to win national and international competitions. Eventually, he created a juggling act with his baton-twirling, and left college to work as a professional performer.
In 1957, Norman Crider was contracted to perform his act in an ice show at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago—and he took this opportunity to study ballet in the Windy City. He then revamped his act, adding to it a strong dancing element that set it far apart from the kind of performance baton twirlers usually offered. This took him to the international circus and variety circuit, and eventually to Europe. In 1961, he was featured at Paris’s legendary Cirque Medrano, and on the French Television show La Piste aux Étoiles. He then settled in Paris, where he remained for eight years.
While in France, Norman Crider also began to teach baton-twirling. It was just the right time: drum majorettes were becoming all the rage, and Norman was not only Europe’s first knowledgeable twirling teacher, but he was also the only one—until, that is, some of his most gifted students went into twirling teaching. Norman Crider also taught baton-twirling to professional performers, among whom the French juggler Serge Lamy.
He returned to the United States where he performed in ice shows, and finally retired from performing to open The Ballet Shop in 1977. It remained active until 1996. Norman Crider also founded the Antiques Center of America, an arcade of antique shops on Manhattan's East Side, and had for a time a small antique shop in the Trump Tower, and La Boutique Fantasque, another shop at Rockefeller Center.
After the closing of The Ballet Shop, Norman Crider moved to Winter Park, Florida, then to Indianapolis, where he died of cancer on August 19, 2009, at age seventy-one.
- Video: Norman Crider, baton twirler, at the Cirque d'Hiver in Paris (1961)