For many young women in Hawaii, dancing hula is like breathing. It is more than just a way of communicating ancient Hawaiian stories and legends; it’s also a way of sharing a love of music and celebration with others.
For Délys Hulalimaikalanimai Kanemura Recca, who played unfortunate victim Brooke Waiakea in “Wāwahi moeʻuhane” (“Broken Dreams”), her beauty and hula expertise only helped to enrich her role on “Hawaii Five-0.”
Recca was gracious enough to share her experience on the “Five-0” set with me, and I was glad to hear her time on the show was “a dream come true.”
Like many other Hawaii-based actors, Recca had a lot of experience auditioning until she was finally “blessed” to be chosen to play Brooke. She shared that she did not compete against other hula dancers for the role.
“It just worked out really well that I’m also a hula dancer, but it was not really the main reason why I was cast,” she said.
Recca’s hula resume is extensive. She has danced hula professionally since she was five years old. Besides hula, she’s been trained in ballet, jazz, hip-hop, modern and Tahitian dance.
“My first Kumu Hula was Olana Ai. Then I danced for my mom, Kumu Hula Shirley Recca, when she opened her hālau, and I’ve also danced for Kumu Hula Kaleo Trinidad during and after my years as a student at Kamehameha Schools,” Recca said. She also represented Trinidad’s Hālau Hula ʻO Ka Leo O Laka I Ka Hikina O Ka Lā at the Merrie Monarch Festival in 2010, dancing for the coveted Miss Aloha Hula title.
After she graduated from Kamehameha Schools, Recca was blessed with many opportunities to travel and perform. She’s performed in New York, Florida, all over California, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Tasmania.
Recca also studied under Kumu Hula Kimo Alama-Keaulana for a short time and danced for Tau Dance Company under the direction of Peter Rockford Espiritu.
“I’ve been really blessed to do many hula shows and productions,” Recca said.
Hawaii audiences may remember her in the lead role in the Tau Dance Company production “Poli’ahu: Goddess of Mauna Kea.” She also has been in Espiritu’s Hawaiian opera, “Naupaka: A Hawaiian Love Story,” and most she recently danced with recording artist Makana in a concert series at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
Besides her hula experience, Recca has been featured in “Dateline,” “Mad Men” and has been in several commercials and advertisements, including the cover of Hula Lea magazine as well as in ads for Disney’s Aulani Resort, Maui Jim, Capital One and Converse.
When I asked Recca about her character on “Hawaii Five-0” and what she thought about how Brooke was portrayed — not only as a lovely hula dancer, but one who had fallen into an escort service veiled as a hula show — her answer was honest and realistic.
“I loved my character,” she said. “Not once did I take offense to the role or storyline, nor did I take it personally. Maybe because I knew it was TV.
“It was a story about a young girl trying to make her dreams come true, and she got caught up in a bad situation. Nobody is exempt from the sticky situations life presents. Some are just luckier than others.”
Recca’s time on “Hawaii Five-0” was as interesting as her life dancing and entertaining all over the world.
“I filmed on three separate days. Most of the set crew are locals, and they were stoked to have another local on the other side of the camera,” she said. “I felt so welcomed and was well-cared for every second I was there.
“I was really nervous because this was the first time I did anything on this scale. The hula part was small compared to the time spent shooting the other scenes. I did all my own stunts; I was shot in the head and I had to (fall) to the ground. I had to float in the open ocean on the west side, and that was me rolled up in a blanket and dumped in the ocean off the side of a boat!
“Everyone continually gave me words of support and encouragement. One of the days I was picked up from my house at 3:30 a.m. and went straight into makeup for about three hours, to get all deaded up.
Three hours to apply a bullet wound to her forehead and the autopsy’s Y-incision, as well as grey makeup to make her look dead and in rigor mortis.
“That day filming ended around 11 p.m. It was a long day for sure, but every second of it was exciting,” she said.
During her time on filming she did not share any dialogue with any of the main actors, but she did get to talk to several of them. She had two scenes where she laid on the autopsy table while they acted around her.
“I met and had brief conversations with a handful of the ‘Five-0’ actors. I honestly didn’t want to bother them, so I stayed pretty reserved. I sat aside Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, and Amanda Setton as we were in and out of makeup.
“I also met Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, Masi Oka, and William Forsythe. They were all very kind to me and had such wonderful spirits. It was nice to see such talented and famous actors in such a normal and real way.”
I had to ask Recca about her last scene in the episode, when Brooke’s father, played by fellow Hawaii actor Byron Ono, comes to say goodbye to his dead daughter. I wondered how she made it through such an emotional scene.
“That scene with my TV dad was difficult,” she said. “I had to put myself outside of the situation. In real life, I’m very close to my parents, so I couldn’t go there in the scene. But being surrounded by the cameras and light crew, make-up and hair, and the other actors, made it easier to work.
“The scene where I was shot was a more difficult scene for me. Crying on cue and getting shot was all a first for me. The actual bullet shooting from the gun was all CGI. The director gave me cues to cock my head back, and how to (fall) after the shot. All I have to say is, stunts are not easy and they do hurt!
“Of course, there’s a crew to ensure safety and to make all the stunts as precise as possible. But falling down, being rolled in and out of a blanket on a boat and being tossed in the water is exactly how it looks: kinda sore!
“I would do it a million times over. I hope to do more stunt work,” she said.
Unfortunately, Recca didn’t get to see her episode the night it premiered on CBS.
“That Friday, my boyfriend and friends gathered to have a little screening party; pupus, drinks, and all! Well, there was a storm that night and right before ‘Hawaii Five-0’ started, the electricity went out!
“We were in the dark for the remainder of the night. I didn’t get to watch it until the following morning! But I was very happy with how everything turned out. Leading up to its airdate, I was nervous with anticipation. … But I cannot lie, I couldn’t help but giggle and smile when I finally got to watch it.
“And all the confirmation from family and friends was the best feeling in the world, knowing I made them proud. That to me meant the most.”
I wanted to know what the beautiful Hawaiian, Sicilian, Japanese, German, Scottish, Irish, English, and Spanish hula dancer had in store for her near future.
“Right now, I’m currently finishing my (bachelor’s degree) at the Shidler College of Business at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. I still island hop to get a quick show in here and there, but school comes first!
“When I can, I dance at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Hilton Hawaiian Village, Halekulani and House Without a Key, and at the Hyatt.”
Recca may have played a young woman whose dreams were broken, but her lovely hula hands are wrapped firmly around her school books and keeping her feet dancing.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
This week’s repeat of “Hawaii Five-0” was one of the best episodes of season four. Popularly known as the Pearl Harbor episode, fans from around the world responded with awe and reverence to the history surrounding it. If you have never seen this episode, it is more than worth your time to check it out.
Next week, Five-0 returns with “Lā Pōʻino” (“Doomsday”). Don’t miss the return of Joe White (Terry O’Quinn) and another interesting case for the team, as they race to find a kidnapped patient infected with a contagious and lethal strain of bird flu — which the criminals plan on weaponizing.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.