Review by J Hunter
I never thought I’d live to see it, but there it was – dozens of people dancing at the front of the massive stage at Zankel Music Center while the Cuban powerhouse Tiempo Libre blew the place up again and again. And those people had a pretty decent place to get their groove on, too, because the Zankel staff had removed the chairs that usually sit in the orchestra pit, leaving room for an honest-to-God dance floor!
Mind you, I have to think it was self-defense on the part of the Zankel, SPAC and Saratoga ArtsFest, who staged the show as the opening salvo of the fest’s seventh season. Dancing was on the agenda whether there was a place to do it or not: Tiempo Libre may be seen as the leading lights of Timba (a genre that mixes Afro-Cuban with salsa and American R&B), but the now-veteran, three-time Grammy-nominated septet is really just the latest iteration of Cuban dance bands stretching back to when Desi Arnaz was a fresh-faced kid – and the object of the exercise for those groups was to get you out of your seat so you could shake your butt. Tiempo Libre achieved that goal in very short order.