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The idea for the NORDWIND festival was sparked in 2006 by a German-Swedish co-production of a play based on Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata. The ensemble wanted to conclude its successful six-month tour through Germany with a repeat performance in Berlin, which gave rise to the idea to invite artists from Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark to present their latest work there – and thus the NORDWIND festival was born.

The first edition in May 2006 was on a fairly modest scale, with ten ensembles performing on the rehearsal stage of Theater Thikwa and drawing 450 viewers over six days. However, the platform attracted the attention of the Nordic embassies in Berlin, and they provided funding for initial research trips so that the project could be expanded. By 2007 NORDWIND had grown to include six venues in Berlin – Admiralspalast, Ballhaus Ost, Tacheles, Dock 11, Eden, and Kulturbrauerei – and attracted a total audience of 3000. In 2009 the festival extended over eight days and 4000 people overall attended performances on all three of stages of the HAU in Berlin, which served both as the festival venue and as NORDWIND's German partner.

The NORDWIND festival has enabled many artists to come to Germany and helped them gain international prominence since it was founded in 2006. For example, the Danish performance duo Signa was first introduced to a wider audience in 2007, when it presented the German premiere of its performance-installation Dorine Chaikin Institute at the festival. Critics of Berlin's Zitty magazine named Dorine Chaikin Institute "Performance of the Year" in 2007. Meanwhile, Signa tours all over Europe and the duo has received several invitations to present its next works at Schauspiel Köln and at the Salzburg Festival in 2011/2012.