I’m curious as to the origins of the term ‘chookas’. David says: “ … all the ‘chookas’ cards have been written … ” I’ve seen it mentioned in Dance Train and sometimes in newsletters from my daughter’s dance school, but (although I know it means something along the lines of ‘have fun!’ or ‘good luck’) where did the term come from? Why is it used, and is it only used by dancers? Come to think of it, does it have anything to do with ‘lame ducks’ which has got to be one of the weirdest ballet terms ever!
I have been told that the use of ‘chookas’ to wish a performer good luck is uniquely Australian. It seems to have come into use during the early days of J.C. Williamson’s dominance of the theatre scene in Australia. In the early 1900s chicken was regarded as a treat (even in my experience ‘chicken in the basket’ was the most expensive dish on a menu). As most shows paid fees depending on the box-office take, a full house meant that the performers would be able to afford a chicken meal. The cry ‘chook it is’ was shortened to ‘chookas’, and eventually used by performers to wish each other a successful show regardless of the number of people in the auditorium.
For dancers in particular it is far better than the alternative term for good luck, ‘break a leg’!
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