‘Break a Leg’ ~ Why Dancers Say ‘Merde’
Tonight is opening night for a play I joined just over a week ago. It’s been a whirlwind last two weeks and I’m excited for the opportunity to play onstage with my fellow actors.
As you may know, performers are superstitious. I think it’s because so many things can go horribly wrong in a live performance with disastrous or hilarious results. Props that disappear, music that comes in wrong or late, costume malfunctions, dance steps missed, lines dropped, cues missed, the list is endless. A good show has to do with endless preparation, and a lot of collaboration with a LOT of different people. How it all comes together so beautifully is the magic of theatre, and perhaps a bit of luck.
When actors are going on stage to perform, it is considered bad luck to wish each other “Good Luck”, for fear of tempting fate, so the saying is “Break a Leg”. However for dancers, that prospect sounds too risky. I was always told that Ballet started in Paris and that was the reason for saying “merde”, which is French for ‘shit’. But its origin is more likely because in the vaudeville shows, the animals acts came before the dancers, and calling out “merde” to a fellow dancer was a warning not to step in it.
Please come see my show, and please wish me ‘merde’.
When Lord Harry Hackensack’s salacious afternoon diversions are interrupted by a visit from Madame Matriarch, a devious plot is put into play to quickly wed Young Thomas and Miss Gwendolyn so both will lose their inheritance and each other. To be sure the gossip gets out, Lord Harry invites the press “off the record”, along with a questionable “Captain” Roger to perform the ceremony. Roger and Gwendolyn’s “maid” of honor, Priscilla have instant chemistry and hilarity ensues. But once married and penniless, what will become of the idealistic couple? And who will end up with the inheritance? In a plot that whirls every character into a tangled intrigue of sex, gender, matrimony, and parentage, which way will it all end up?
American Theatre for Actors at 314 West 54th Street, 2nd floor. Friday and Saturday and 8pm, Saturday and Sunday at 3pm. Shows run until July 23.
This weekend Only $9 on TDF: https://www.tdf.org/nyc/84/Available-Shows
Or for $20 (originally $50!) with the code SARAHD: http://anywhichwaythouwouldhaveit.com/
Merde is french for poo, it’s true,
The reason to say it is this:
“Break a leg” is what actors say,
For “Good luck!” will make it lacked.
And though all dancers want good luck,
They want their legs intact!
If saying bad will make it good,
And ballet began in France,
Though what it means is not so clean,
It’s what we say for dance.
See you at the show!
Please see the Classes page for my current teaching schedule. I’d love to see you at the barre!