Die Fensterputzer
(The Window Washer)

Photo: © Jochen Viehoff
Used with permission

First performed February 12, 1997

Music and Credits


The curtain opens on a set consisting of a twenty-foot-high hill of red silk flowers in one corner, an image that alludes to Hong Kong region's geography, as well as to the impending onslaught of Bauschian imagery. It is morning. A young girl greets us, repeating "Hello, good morning" with a saccharine smile, while others go through the mundane actions of shaving, dressing, and fixing their hair with a synchronization and smoothness that elevates the actions to dance. One desperate soul attempts to please her guests--the audience--by offering coffee, food, or soft drinks. A lone window washer attemps a ludicrous task: behind a reflective sheet of plastic, suspended in a seat with squeegee and pail, he trys to keep the glass surfaces of Hong Kong's glimmering neon cityscape free of grime and glare. His lonely toil, contrasted with his later appearances as a well-dressed, pipe-smoking, poodle-toting gentleman, reminds us of the gap between rich and poor, worker and dandy.

Kelly Hargraves
Dance Online: Reviews


Bausch wants us to look in, and look inward. Her beautiful and disturbing images anticipate the horror or delight of recognizing ourselves within her own dark world. As in Palermo, Palermo, a 1989 work set in the Sicilian city, Hong Kong is merely a backdrop. Bausch integrates pieces of its life: the mountain of red bauhinia flowers, the rope bridge, the karaoke, and the crowded people-and-bicycle-filled streets. Yet her well-known theatrical tropes carry the show's style: the vintage dresses, the stiletto heels, the obsessions with cleaning and sweeping. Then there are the absurdist encounters, such as a man who seems to be speaking seductively to a woman while his words are that of a loudspeaker paging a passenger in an airport. Or there are the men who, one after another tumble into and leap out of a woman's bed while she tries to fluff up the pillows and stay out of their way. Both vignettes are comic takes on the harried, anonymous mating rituals of modern life.

Alice Naude
"Reviews: New York City"
Dance Magazine 72, no. 1 (1998): 100-101.


Bausch is capable of startling, strange, and beautiful combinations of dance and theatre. Her abilities are clearly present in one scene from Der Fensterputzer, in which a lone man wearing skis slowly, deliberately sidesteps up the flower mound before swooshing down to the stage, only to repeat his task over and over. Here, in the midst of a lesser Bausch work, is a wonderful evocation of a skiing Sisyphus. Bausch is at her best in sections like this, which imbue the work with layered meanings and begin to create true theatrical magic.

Brian Kloppenberg
"Performance Review: Der Fensterputzer"
Theatre Journal 50, no.3 (1998): 385-86

By Mimi Tashiro ©1999, Stanford University


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