I read somewhere that all Scorpio females secretly wish they had been born a man. Well, for those who know me, it's no secret. Don't get me wrong – I wear heels, but I walk a little bowlegged. If my friends are wearing dresses, I'll throw on some jeans. That's because too much girliness sends shivers down my spine. My inner femme may be strong and proud, but clinging to her leg is an obnoxious worm-eating tomboy who likes to trip her up in her Candies stillettos and smear Chanel lipstick all over his muddy face. Lord knows he was an unruly bully, in danger of running wild – until pole dance instructor and uber-femme Antonia Crane stepped in.

Antonia is a siren extraordinaire with long auburn hair, startling green eyes and full sleeves, who exudes an powerful blend of kittenish allure and vixen-like sensuality. Intimidatingly smart, she's not frightened to harness the power of her femininity, unlike many of us girls who have never mastered the elusive art of sexy. Antonia (also a talented fiction writer), honed her skills working as a pole dancer at several venues around the West Coast, including at the Lusty Lady in San Francisco, the first joint in the US whose workers unionized themselves. She recently started teaching at The Joint Fitness, a new gym-restaurant-nightclub complex in Hollywood, run by the same guy who opened Spider Club. There's no such thing as membership at the Joint – all classes are pay as you go. So you just show up, and there's no need to buy expensive packages.

I showed up wearing green Chuck Taylors, a t-shirt and no makeup. Antonia was in white stripper heels, hot pants and her pout was brilliant red. “You're a hot firecracker and I'd love to turn you out,” she told me. “Make you into the slinky, tough kitty with a whip that you are.” She ordered me to take off my sneakers and go barefoot. I obeyed. Then she told me to take off my t-shirt so that my body, now in shorts and a tiny boob tube, would have full contact with the pole. I did as I was told.

There were around 10 of us girls in the class. One tall, limber brunette stripped down to her see-through panties for the occasion. She noticed me eyeing the pole suspiciously. “Don't be frightened, it won't bite,” she coaxed. “That's right,” said Antonia. “The pole is your friend.”

I wasn't too sure. My inner tomboy definitely wasn't sure, especially when Antonia started demonstrating a move which involved wrapping your thigh around the pole, reaching between your legs and running your hand along your crotch while staring at yourself in the mirror. “That's hot,” I told her. “I don't think I can do it.” She assured me I could. I cocked my leg against the pole, I reached in between my legs, rubbed a little bit and took a look in the wall mirror. I looked like a dog about to take a pee. Not hot. Not hot in the slightest.

There were three poles in the studio and we were split up in to groups. Antonia took me and another beginner aside for personal instruction. She asked us to circle the pole with slow, deliberate paces. Holding on to it, we performed the classic stripper move – throwing our legs around the pole and sliding down. The other girl, a determined first-timer with a string of star tattoos down the backs of her thighs, got it down after a few tries. But I just couldn't seem to get it. I treated the pole as a fireman would – something to slide down as quickly as possible before bouncing off.

“You're over-thinking,” said Antonia. “So that's making you freak out. Just be natural.” I took her advice and tried one more time, letting my body's momentum guide me as I relaxed and channeled my inner Dita Von Teese, sliding to the ground, and even performing a little booty-wiggle as I raised myself back up. “Excellent,” said Antonia.

I asked her to show us her best, most killer move, and she obliged, spinning around the pole in a cylone of sexiness, swinging her legs over her head, sliding down slowly upside down before flipping over and landing in the splits. Always with a little smile playing on her lips. “It's all in the transition,” she explained. “If you fuck up, don't stop moving. Don't stop being sexy. If you believe it, I believe it too.”

That, I realized, is the key – believing. Having spent so many years subconsciously disrespecting my inner femme and refusing to take her seriously, it was a revelation to have someone like Antonia – a formidable Amazon that could simultaneously kick your ass and melt your heart with a flicker of her eyelashes – show me the error of my ways. Of course, years of self-conditioning don't disappear in a night – but getting semi-naked, sticking my booty out and rubbing myself up and down a pole to the sounds of PJ Harvey – let's just say it helps. 

The Joint, 6531 Hollywood Boulevard, at Hudson Street, Hollywood (323-871-1504 or thejointfitness.com).

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