Eight years ago my mother surprised me for my birthday with a trip to the Karmiel Dance Festival. It was there that I was first introduced to and promptly fell in love with Israeli dance. Packed with amazing programs from Israel and abroad the festival was a beautiful event - colorful, joyous and inspiring. Since then, I have had a soft place in my heart for The Karmiel Festival, which takes place this week. Now in its twenty-first year, the festival expands its program with numerous genres of dance, as well as a multitude of nationalities. Modern, folk, belly, flamenco and ballroom are just a few examples of the styles of dance one is sure to encounter this coming weekend in the Galil. To honor the rich history of folk dance in Israel, the festival kicks off with a parade of folk dance companies. Over three thousand dancers, clad in colorful costumes will make their way through the town to the festival's stages. This ceremonious 'passing of the baton' is sure to get the dancers and audience members off on the right foot - and yes, pun intended. Companies from Spain, Norway, India, Colombia and others will visit the stage during the course of the weekend. Representing classical dance, Ballet Segev from Hungary will perform A Midsummer Night's Dream and Carmina Burana. Company El Colegio Del Corpo of Colombia will show their piece, The Other Guest. Mia Habib of Norway, a renowned artist, will relate tales of her travels around the world through her unique performance style. Athanasia Dance Company from Crete brings their style of movement to our side of the Mediteranean. Representatives of the modern dance community in Israel include Vertigo Dance Company, Michal Herman and Michal Sharon and the new Tel Aviv Dance Company. Belly dancer Abigail Klein will perform in her own creation. There will also be a significant showing of young dancers during this year's festival. A competition of jazz from studios around the country will take place in two parts on Wednesday. A choreography competition entitled, Women In Songs, will showcase the work of outstanding female artists. Whether you are interested in the best of Israeli dance, creations from abroad, fresh faces or old favorites, Karmiel is the place to be. The Karmiel Festival runs from July 22 to 24. For information visit www.karmielfestival.co.il.