Shona McCullagh
Choreographer & CE/AD (2012-2019)

MNZM, NZ Arts Foundation Laureate, 2014 Westpac & Fairfax Woman of Influence (Arts), 2015 Hynds Creative Entrepreneur of the Year.

In 2011, Shona co-founded the New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC) and fulfilled a successful tenure of nine years as Chief Executive/Artistic Director NZDC. In 2020, Shona became Artistic Director of the prestigious Auckland Arts Festival.

Shona is one of New Zealand’s outstanding cross platform artists and an innovative choreographer for dance, theatre and film and also a director, dance filmmaker, teacher and interactive installation artist.

A Distinguished Graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance, Shona was a dancer with Sydney based company Darc Swan in 1984, subsequently joining Limbs Dance Company, where she was a dancer, rehearsal director and choreographer from 1985 to 1988. In 1987, Shona performed with Douglas Wright & Dancers in New York, was a founding member of the NZ based Douglas Wright Dance Company and became its Associate Director in 1991, touring to the London Dance Umbrella and the Holland Dance Festival.

As a choreographer over the last 33 years Shona has created works ranging from short pieces to full length works, often working with NZ composers for companies such as Limbs, Footnote, Douglas Wright Dance Company, The Royal New Zealand Ballet, Southern Lights, tertiary institutes and her own company The Human Garden, which was established in 1992 and continued until 2007.

As the inaugural recipient of Creative New Zealand’s 2004 Senior Choreographic Fellowship, Shona developed works integrating real- time interactive technology with live performance resulting in a full-length work and a series of installations. She was then commissioned to create work by Era New Horizons Festival in Poland, the Nelson Arts Festival, Splore and Taupo’s Erupt Festival.

Shona developed an international reputation as an award-winning and innovative filmmaker with all three of her films being screened at the prestigious Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival. A founding contemporary technique tutor at the Performing Arts School and then at the Unitec Bachelor of Performing and Screen Arts, Shona also established New Zealand’s first Screendance course at Unitec.

Shona is well known for her choreography for significant theatre, television and film works for Peter Jackson, Rob Tapert, Simon Bennett, Michael Hurst and Auckland Theatre Company in addition to her role as Head Choreographer for the globally broadcast Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony in 2011.

Her full-length work for NZDC, Rotunda resulted in the Company’s first international tour to Holland Dance Festival, followed by a nine-centre Australasian tour, accompanied by live brass bands, including New Zealand’s first collaboration between a contemporary dance company and the military.

In 2007 Shona was invited to be part of the inaugural Art Venture Acceleration Programme for Creative Entrepreneurs, an initiative of the Arts Regional Trust that resulted in her decision to assist the growth of the New Zealand dance industry by establishing The New Zealand Dance Company. Shona is very grateful for all of the support received to establish and grow the Company: in particular, the brave and generous Board members past and present, her co-founder Frances Turner, funders, supporters, creatives, colleagues and most of all, her family.

Shona is the currently Artistic Director of the Auckland Arts Festival.