Ask Colin – Chookas!

Dear Colin,
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!
Jen Stosser

Dear Jen,
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’!


You can email your ballet questions to Colin at [email protected]

4 November 2009

4 Responses to Ask Colin – Chookas!

  1. Pingback: Ask Colin – Good luck greetings | Behind Ballet

  2. khanya says:

    hi :) the term “chookas” or as i’ve more often seen it spelt, “chukas” is not unique to Australia. i’m a ballet dancer from south africa, and my brother dances in the South African Ballet Theatre, and we both say chukas to mean good luck :) the english director of a youth ballet i danced for also said chukas, but then again, he may just have picked it up in SA 😛 as for where it comes from, i’ve never really thought about it, but i like to think that it means we’ll be eating chicken tonight 😛

  3. Hi Colin, Chookas is making its way around the globe. This month I ran dance marketing workshops for over 100 dance teachers in England where I introduced the term. Having grown up dancing in Australia in the 80s, it is one of my favourite words! It was met with great enthusiasm as you can see by this comment on our website, (where we link to this post): Cheers, Natasha.

  4. Annabel Louise Reader says:

    It is also used in New Zealand. It was used as “good luck” during my dance degree. I never used any other good luck term until I came across the use of “Merde” as good luck when I moved to the States.

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