Valses Nobles et Sentimentales was one of two works choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan for his debut at the Berlin Ballet. The other was Concerto, with  completing the evening. The two new works were made to show off the company’s capacities. Valses, which opened the programme was set for two soloists and two supporting couples.

There were changes to the orders of the waltzes, which disconcerted Dance and Dancer’s critic, Horst Koegler; MacMillan had transposed the second and first, repeating the first at the end of the ballet. “I find this much liberalism in MacMillan disturbing”, he complained. But when he wrote, Koegler was apparently unaware that MacMillan had at the last minute been refused permission by Ravel’s estate to use, as he had originally intended, the Mother Goose suite. MacMillan had hastily to adapt the choreography to the score of Valses.

Alexander Bland, in The Observer characterised Valses as “comings and goings for four couples revolving around a boy in love with a girl in love with herself (there is a nice pas de deux in which he vainly tries to wean her attention from her hand mirror). All ends well in what Ravel called ‘the delight of absolutely useless movement” “It is nothing to show off in – and so a rather daring opening piece”, Koegler said of the choreography. “But there was already an element of elegance to be spotted, which was quite new with these dancers, a longer kind of breathing, a greater spaciousness of their phrasing.”

MacMillan was his own harshest critic. Valses was “an awful ballet”, he told Edward Thorpe, “created in a hurry”.

  • First performance: Deutsche Oper, West Berlin, 30 November 1966

  • Company: Ballet of the Deutsche Oper

  • Cast: Didi Carli, Falco Kapuste Vergie Derman, Silvia Kesselheim, Gert Schulze, Gerhard Bohner

  • Music: Ravel

  • Design: Jürgen Rose