After a year of playing to empty houses, Britain’s Royal Ballet dancers William Bracewell and Fumi Kaneko are eager to “celebrate what we do best” when they return to the public stage as Romeo and Juliet. “I haven’t done this, a three-act ballet for ages,” Japanese prima ballerina Kaneko told AFP after a rehearsal of the famous balcony scene. “To be able to dance with a whole company of ballet dancers is so special. “Romeo and Juliet is my dream role, I’m enjoying every minute of the rehearsal right now,” she said of the Kenneth McMillan choreographed work, ahead of World Ballet Day on October 19. In one aerial scene, Kaneko is entranced by her Romeo, Bracewell, who twirls her around and draws her closer into an embrace, crowned by a kiss. Bracewell said the return of in-person audiences after more than a year of rolling lockdowns was “what we needed to do, to come back together and celebrate what we do best, which is tell those amazing stories”. Kaneko revealed other problems thrown up by the pandemic, saying “even when we came back to studio we had to wear masks. “I think we did struggle a lot, this breathing with a mask”, even if it meant they “could do what we want to do”. Britain began lifting its coronavirus lockdown restrictions in July, as a mass vaccination campaign reduced hospital admissions for severe Covid and deaths. Bracewell said now was the time for everyone who has made some sacrifices “to start hopefully getting back to some sort of normality and getting the joyful parts of life as well”. He praised the famous troupe, which performs at London’s Royal Opera House, as being “amazing” during the pandemic. “They did as much as they could in a safe environment and to help us feel like we had a purpose and could dance, and still perform,” he told AFP. The dancers were able to perform online, which “was a bit of an outlet of emotion”, he added. The ballet opens on October 5 at the Royal Opera House.