The origin of “break a leg,” meaning to wish an actor good luck, has many possible derivations. Some researchers believe the term comes from vaudeville days where curtains were called “legs.” Since not all actors were able to get on stage, you wished each other well by telling each other to “break a leg,” or to get on stage. Breaking a leg is also an archaic term for bowing, so perhaps the term refers to curtain calls. And in Shakespearean days, the stage was often built on legs, and sometimes the folk crowding into the cheap seats would be so numerous, their raucous enjoyment broke the legs of the stage.
Whatever the meaning of “break a leg”, it doesn’t have any relevance here because it does not refer to dancers. In the case of dancers, you wish them “Merde,” short for “Merde à toi,” which apparently is an old French slang term for “good luck.”
Since I’m a UnitedStatesian What’s wrong with plain old “good luck”? It might not be traditional, but it’s an easily understood term if one speaks English, and I need all the luck I can get.
I have dress rehearsals the next couple of days, then four performances this weekend, and for some reason, I’ve been feeling a bit of trepidation. Not sure why exactly. I know the dances as well as anyone and better than most, though I seldom get through a dance without some small error, a costume malfunction if nothing else. (We are wrapped in veils ready for an unveiling at the end, and sometimes the veils unveil themselves prematurely. So not cool!)
My dance teacher seems to think I’ll do okay and attributes my trepidation to the unsettled nature of my life, which is entirely possible. And she reminded me of something else. However well or poorly we do, we are still dancing on stage. How cool is that, to be doing a belly dance (actually two belly dances!) before an audience even though most of us have no dance experience and none of us are young anymore. (I’m the youngest, come to think of it.)
So despite the harrowing days ahead, I will try to concentrate on the wonder of it all. Me. On stage. Dancing with my class. Swathed in veils and glitz and glitter and (hopefully) a brilliant smile.
Wish me luck in whatever idiom you choose.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)