In theatres & dance studios across Australia you will hear teachers, students, dancers, technicians, stage hands calling out Chookas. An endearing word, but as a child I had no idea what it meant, I just knew I was supposed to say it. I loved it, as a young dancer it was like a code word, one that only the cool dance kids knew about.

Globally the term “break a leg” is popular. Its origins are unclear but range from the theory that all the understudies were sitting in the back row politely wishing the various principals would break a leg. Or that it is archaic slang for bowing or curtsying; placing one foot behind the other and bending at the knee “breaks” the line of the leg.psdbreakaleg2

Opera singers are known for calling out Toi Toi Toi , apparently to ward off evil spirits and dancers not wishing to call out break a leg use the term “Merde” (shit in French!). Of all of these terms Chookas remains a stand out favourite and I love passing this little tradition on to our students at PSD.

So how did Chookas come about? According to one oral tradition, one of the performers would check audience numbers. If there were not many in the seats, the performers would have bread to eat following the performance. If the theatre was full they could then have “chooks”( Australian slang for chicken ) for dinner. Therefore, if it was a full house, the performer would call out “Chookas” Today it’s a good luck wish.

psdbreakaleg3You will hear students and teachers calling it out to each other before exams, assessments, performances and well just about anything! Our code word for good luck, I care about you, I wish you well, we love you, you are valued and we are in this together.



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A celebration of a boutique dance school’s family friendly community. Miss Melanie shares her passion, skill and knowledge in nurturing young dancers as they express themselves through the joy of dance. Offering tips, how-to’s, a dance teachers reflections and connections with the on-line dance community. Peninsula School of Dance is located on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula.

Melanie Gard is a respected Licentiate with Cecchetti Ballet, an affiliate of the Australian Teachers of Dance and the Director of the Peninsula School of Dance.