March 24, 2008 / 1:06 PM / 11 years ago

Donkey takes final bow at ballet troupe

A zoo employee feeds Monika the donkey at St. Petersburg's zoo March 24, 2008. Russia's Mariinsky ballet has said farewell to one of its longest-serving artistes: a 21-year-old female donkey named Monika. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russia’s Mariinsky ballet has said farewell to one of its longest-serving artistes: a 21-year-old female donkey named Monika.

The animal is to be pensioned off after 19 years carrying the knight’s overweight servant Sancho Panza around the stage in productions of the ballet Don Quixote. The Mariinsky, previously known as the Kirov, is one of Russia’s foremost ballet troupes.

At her farewell party, Monika danced a waltz with one of the Mariinsky’s ballerinas and was presented with retirement gifts of carrot cake, a pinafore and a kerchief. Her role will be taken over by a female donkey named Alina.

“She loves to perform and she loves applause,” said Tatyana Solomatina, a spokeswoman for St Petersburg zoo, where Monika lives between performances. “She knew the exact time to appear in the ballet, even without someone accompanying her.”

Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Michael Winfrey

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