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Notorious Maine Zumba studio to reopen as new one

Joyce Bagshaw wants dance classes held in a studio once allegedly used for prostitution.

Clarke Canfield /associated Press

Joyce Bagshaw wants dance classes held in a studio once allegedly used for prostitution.

KENNEBUNK, Maine — A year after a Zumba studio shut down following allegations the instructor was using it as a prostitution front, the space is reopening — as another Zumba studio.

Joyce Bagshaw is opening Danceworks in space that used to house Pura Vida, a fitness studio operated by Alexis Wright. Wright faces numerous prostitution and related charges for allegedly having sex with customers in her dance studio and a rented office in this southern Maine town, and the case has drawn worldwide media attention.

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Even with the notoriety, Bagshaw doesn’t have any second thoughts about opening a Zumba studio in the same space. If anything, the publicity will help, she said.

‘‘There are many more people that know the studio exists and that it offers Zumba,’’ she said. ‘‘And I’m going to be the person taking advantage of that, so I see it as a positive.’’

Bagshaw has been teaching Zumba since 2008 at studios in the area and even taught at Pura Vida when Wright opened it in 2010. But Bagshaw quit working for Wright in 2011 when she became aware of Internet pornography videos featuring Wright, she said.

But she could not resist taking a chance on the space after it came open. Spacious, with colorful walls, a bamboo floor, high ceilings, and large plate-glass windows up front, the studio is ideal for Zumba as well line dancing, salsa, belly dancing and other types of dance that might be taught there eventually, she said.

Bagshaw is going to begin offering a few classes this month, with a grand opening scheduled for May.

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Bagshaw said she’s heard from former clients and others who plan to take classes. They have been supportive and encouraging, she said.

Solveiga Purens, who began taking Zumba classes two years ago from Bagshaw, doesn’t have any misgivings at taking classes in the infamous studio.

‘‘At 74?’’ said Purens, who’s from Kennebunk. ‘‘Just because it’s in a building where something happened that became world news is no reason why we can’t go there and dance and bring a different spirit there. I even joke about it — I say, ‘I’ll be the madam and we’ll start a real business.’ ’’

Kennebunk Police Chief Robert MacKenzie testified in a trial that ended this month in which insurance salesman Mark Strong Sr. was convicted of 13 counts of promoting prostitution in connection with the case. Wright has pleaded not guilty and has not gone on trial.

Following Strong’s trial, MacKenzie said he likes that the studio is going to stay a studio.

‘‘That’s a good thing,’’ he said. ‘‘I give credit to the woman who’s opening it back up.’’

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