On October 8th, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of The New Zealand Dance Company Shona McCullagh was awarded the arts category winner of the Westpac and Fairfax sponsored Women of Influence Awards.
The judges said McCullagh’s name was synonymous with contemporary arts in New Zealand and her leadership was critical to the arts community.
“I’m very surprised and honoured to have received this award. I accept it on behalf of so many wonderful NZ women doing extraordinary work within the arts sector, nationally and internationally. Many of them are completely unsung over-achievers who are dedicated, detailed, highly effective yet nurturing of others and have a multiplicity of skill that is often overlooked.”
McCullagh, an Arts Laureate as well as a producer, agent and businesswoman publically launched The New Zealand Dance Company with co-founder Frances Turner just two years ago after raising over a million dollars towards a new NZ arts company. The company has filled opera houses and school halls creating new connections to dance throughout the country and internationally in only it’s second year of operation.
“I thank Westpac and Fairfax for including the arts category for the first time. The creative sector offers so much to our economy and identity and I am proud to also accept this award on behalf of the NZ dance sector that has been significantly contributing at grass roots with our precious youth; our social and recreational dance leaders who help create vital connections to health and well being through movement; and also to our growing professional sector – our dancers, choreographers, designers and managers.”
McCullagh was employed as a professional dancer in Limbs in the 1980’s, followed by a highly successful career as a choreographer for dance, theatre, film and television culminating in her work on Lord of the Rings and King Kong and her appointment as Head Choreographer of the 2011 Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony. She initiated the planning to build a new company to give other dancers and choreographers the same kind of opportunities she experienced as a member of a medium sized full-time dance company.
“The vision for founding The New Zealand Dance Company was to create a strong, permanent structure through strategic business development to support the growth of this sector and it’s rewarding to see how quickly the company has achieved its goal through the support of many wonderful stakeholders.”
McCullagh has been mentored by co-founder of The Icehouse, David Irving and also names three women who have inspired her work.
“David has been an extremely generous mentor to me as the company underwent rapid growth and I’d also like to thank three extraordinary women of influence to me. Wellington dance legend Deirdre Tarrant, who inspired me to pursue a career in dance and offered me the first opportunity to choreograph. Sue Paterson, a brilliant and continuing NZ arts management pioneer, a huge inspiration and a generous and positive mentor for many people. And lastly, my 84 year old mum who is simply a force of nature and an inspiration in serving others.”