Shona Dunlop grew up in New Zealand in the 1920s and traveled to Europe with her family as a teenager. She studied dance for two years in Vienna, Austria. She joined the modern dance Bodenwieser Gruppe and toured South America and Australia before marrying Donald MacTavish, a Canadian missionary, and serving with him in China and South Africa. In 1956, following the sudden death of her husband, she returned to New Zealand with three small children started her life over. She taught dance at Columba College and then set up the first modern dance studio in New Zealand. She choreographed musicals and operas. She started her own modern dance company, Dunedin Dance Theatre, and promoted liturgical dance and the dances of native peoples around the world. In 2001, in her mid-70s, she published her autobiography, Leap of Faith: My Dances Through Life.