Blue Dog Dance taps its way to victory

Best of Renton 2024 highlights.

When asked how she thinks it would feel to win Best Dance/Drama Facility for the 2024 Best of Renton awards, Blue Dog Dance founder and director Barbara Walshe said that her focus with the studio has always been more internal — making sure her dance students and their families were the priority — but that any kind of recognition would be “cool” and something new.

“I’m super proud of my staff and my students and everything that we do,” Walshe said. “And I think that having an outside recognition is kind of cool and important and I think it would be nice for our students and families and staff to have an outside recognition.”

And now, Walshe and her team know exactly how it feels to win and be one of the Best of Renton.

Blue Dog Dance, located in the East Highlands area of Renton, first opened in 2008 after Walshe and her family — her husband, Kelly, and their daughters Bella, a student at Western Washington University, and Millie, a junior at Liberty High School — moved from California to Bellevue, before settling into the Maple Hills area of Renton.

Walshe had been teaching at a dance studio in Bellevue when she drove past the future Blue Dog Dance site, saying it was all about taking the opportunity.

“I had a great time, I loved my boss, and that was fine, but when I was driving, this space here became available for rent. And I just had a moment of like, as much as I love what I do, I will have to drive past this place every time and I would really like the opportunity do my own stuff,” she said.

Sixteen years later and with 640 students of all ages, Blue Dog has become an inclusive dance studio that services dancers in Renton, Newcastle, Issaquah and beyond, offering summer camps, tap, ballet, hip-hop, musical theater, acro dance, jazz, lyrical and contemporary along with partnered dancing for parents and their children between 9 months and three years old.

“We have ‘Dance With Me,’ which is for younger ones with an adult partner, and then we have a three-year-olds program and a four-year-olds program, and then kindergarten,” Walshe said. “So those aren’t [dance] styles, they’re all based in the general dance elements of body action, space, time and energy.”

Throughout the year, Blue Dog has a Halloween show, a holiday show based on “The Polar Express,” and an original ballet show based on “The Wizard of Oz,” their annual recital where all classes perform, and more.

As for the inspiration for the studio’s name, Walshe said that she wanted a name that could help her studio make its own reputation, without any pretense.

“We started to write all of the different things we could think of and at the time, Millie was one and she had a toy that my older daughter had, too, and it was just a teething toy. It was this blue dog and it has little teething paddles for its paws, and I wrote down ‘Blue Dog,’” Walshe said. ”As we started to go through and eliminate names, I wanted it to be something that would be gender neutral, that it could include all ages and it could be literally what we decide we are and that the name would embody that, versus having a name that tells us what we are.”

Blue Dog Dance is located at 12642 164th Avenue Southeast in Renton. For more information, call 425-255-0310 or visit