Graduating from the New Zealand School of Dance in 1983 as Best All Round Dancer, and with a Special Award in Choreography, Shona was invited to join 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 travelled to the US, England and Canada, performing with Douglas Wright & Dancers in New York. On her return to New Zealand, she was voted 1988's Best Dancer by Metro magazine. She was a founding member of the Douglas Wright Dance Company and became its Associate Director in 1991, touring to the London Dance Umbrella and the Holland Dance Festival. Shona has choreographed many successful works for companies such as Limbs, Douglas Wright Dance Company, and The Royal New Zealand Ballet.
She has also created work for theatre, television and film, including sequences for Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring and King Kong and Auckland Theatre Company's Equus, Sweet Charity and Cabaret.
In 1992, she formed her own company, The Human Garden, which toured to Chile and was commissioned by the International Festival of the Arts to create a full-length work, Quick, integrating film and live performance. In 1999, Shona was named a New Zealander of the Year in North & South magazine's feature on 100 New Zealanders Who Made A Difference, and in 2000, she became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to dance and in 2002 she received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award.
Shona's three films have achieved international recognition and unprecedented sales for New Zealand work featuring dance as a narrative medium. Her first film, Hurtle, won several international awards, including the Paula Citron Award for Choreography for Camera at the Moving Pictures Festival in Toronto. Her second film, Fly, won the Australasian ReelDance Awards and her third film Break won the American Dance on Camera Festival in 2007.
A recipient of Creative New Zealand's Senior Choreographic Fellowship, 2007 marked a return to creating full length works, combining Shona' s love of both film and dance by utilising interactive software.
In November 2007 Shona travelled to The Hague as a guest speaker at dancescreen 2007 and in March 08 launched her first installation exhibition at MIC Toi Rerehiko in Auckland. In July 08 she created a live installation at the Era New Horizons Festival, showcased her film work and then traveled to Brazil where she directed a music video for Polydor France. Returning to NZ, the Nelson Festival commissioned an interactive installation titled Beacon and once back in Auckland, Shona created a work for the Unitec graduating 3rd years titled Those Left that was remounted for Tempo, New Zealand's Dance Festival in 2009 and Unitec's 21st Celebration Graduation.
In 2010 Shona was commissioned by Taupo's Erupt Festival to create an interactive installation that was met with acclaim.
Mirror Me, 2008, was an interactive exhibition by Shona McCullagh, Michael Hodgson and John Gibson, utilising computer generated software installations that provided an interface with the viewer's projected/live body.
In 2008 Shona was invited to be part of the inaugural Art Venture Acceleration Programme for Creative Entrepreneurs, an initiative of the Arts Regional Trust. This led to a firming of her commitment to help build a stronger foundation for contemporary dance in New Zealand, the formation of the New Zealand Dance Advancement Trust and the creation of the New Zealand Dance Company which privately launched in 2011. 2012 will see the public launch of the company with Shona's creating a work to a score by Gareth Farr.
Shona was appointed Head Choreographer for the 2011 Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony, creating work on cast of 1000 and in 2012 Shona was appointed as Chief Executive/Artistic Director of the New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC)