Knowing ballet wouldn't help you too much in figuring out the Lexington Ballet's new show, The Köln Concert.
Jazz fans, on the other hand, know exactly what it is: an iconic 1975 performance by pianist Keith Jarrett at the Cologne Opera House in Germany.
Reportedly hungry and worn out when he arrived in Cologne (known as Köln in Germany), Jarrett was presented with the wrong piano and nearly refused to play. But he did play: two long improvisational segments that turned into the best-selling live jazz recording ever, more than 3.5 million copies.
"What makes the album extraordinary is that the music, created out of nothing over the space of an evening decades ago, has stood the test of time as a lasting work of art," music critic Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim wrote last year in The Wall Street Journal. "Far from being a memorial monument, the record gives the listener the opportunity to witness the act of creation itself, to participate in the making of art."
The Lexington Ballet is in fact making more art out of Jarrett's improvs, fulfilling an ambition that artistic director Luis Dominguez has had since hearing the album in the 1970s.
"I have always had a little eclectic musical taste," says Dominguez, 46. Recalling the '70s, he says, "There were two choreographers in Mexico that were really avant-garde, doing really modern pieces within the classical vocabulary, and they were always looking for music."
Dominguez recalls dancing to Pink Floyd's Ummagumma and other modern works, and that is where he started entertaining a desire to put Jarrett's masterpiece of prestidigitation into the toes of some dancers.
The opportunity appeared this season, when the ballet hired a new company of dancers and received a LexArts grant to develop new works this season.
Of course, when Dominguez presented the music to his group of seven dancers, all in their late teens and early 20s, none of them had heard of it.
They've been listening to it a lot now.
Dancer Ayako Hasebe says, "Every time you hear it, you hear something new. It was a mystical concert, and you can tell there was a lot of inspiration behind it."
Dancer Ashley Wilcock, who will dance the piece's centerpiece pas de deux, says, "This is all over the place, and the biggest challenge has been struggling to find the beat."
Preparing for The Köln Concert, Wilcock and others have had a chance to dance with their new director.
Dominguez has not been on stage as a dancer for years. On Friday and Saturday nights, guest dancer Andrew Wright will perform. But for many of the rehearsals, Dominguez has had to be the guy, forcing him to put on his dance gear and stretch with the rest of his company.
"I think he's really good," Wilcock says. "He's really natural."
That the ballet does not have a male dancer on staff has curbed Dominguez's ambitions for the work. Because of the limitations of rehearsal time with Wright, Dominguez was able to set only the second half of each of Köln's two movements.
The concert will include a reprise of the Bach Cello Suites that the Ballet presented last month (and that will be presented at the University of South Carolina this month) and a piece by dancers at the Lexington Ballet's school.
So, this weekend's performances will represent a partially realized ambition. And that gives Dominguez something to look forward to.
"Hopefully," he says, "someday when we get a full-time male dancer in here, we can produce the whole thing."