In the dance craze currently sweeping Israel, classical ballet is grabbing its share of attention. A plethora of ballet classes, performances and studios already abound, but of more interest this spring is who will take home the top awards at the 11th Mia Arbatova Ballet Competition. Named for one of the first ballet teachers in Israel, Mia Arbatova, the competition started in 1986. Arbatova immigrated from the Belarusian town of Dribin, later becoming a prima ballerina and choreographer. The biennial competition was founded to promote classical ballet among the younger generation, and is hosted by the Suzanne Dellal Dance Center in Tel Aviv. A concrete monument to the rich history and variations of ballet in Israel, the Dellal Center is a fitting place for the Mia Arbatova Ballet Competition, despite a touch of historical irony. The Batsheva Dance Company - a professional group that renowned dancer and choreographer Rina Schenfeld helped found in 1963 - makes its permanent home in the Dellal Dance Center. In turn, Schenfeld, who began dancing at the age of 12, first attended classical ballet classes at Mia Arbatova's Tel-Aviv studio. A few years later, after seeing a local performance by Martha Graham, Schenfeld decided to abandon classical ballet in favor of modern dance. Yet although one of Arbatova's prot g s turned to contemporary movement, the Mia Arbatova Competition remains focused on classical ballet. Placing among the finalists carries great prestige, and a number of former winners have continued with famous ballet companies like the Stuttgart Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet. This Friday, 25 dancers will compete for a chance to enter the finals on Saturday evening. The first-place winner will receive NIS 10,000, second place will be awarded NIS 7,000, third place NIS 5,000 and the fourth-place winner will receive NIS 3,000. International ballet dancer Talia Paz will be present at both the marathon on Friday and the final competition on Saturday. In addition to the competition, a show choreographed by Hilel Koogan entitled Achad Htsairim shel Adolf will provide entertainment. The marathon show begins today, April 21 at 2:00 p.m. and the final competition will be held tomorrow at 8:45 p.m. Both events take place at the Suzanne Dellal Center. For more information and tickets, which are NIS 45 for the marathon show and NIS 85 for the final competition, call (03) 510-5656.