Donkey Retires From Ballet
Monika ends successful run with Russia's Mariinsky ballet
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2008 5:54 PM CDT
A ballet dancer performs during the Laureus World Sports Awards at the Mariinsky Concert Hall on February 18, 2008 in St.Petersburg, Russia.    ((Ian Walton/Getty Images))
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(Newser) – A veteran Russian artiste is headed for retirement today: Monika, a 21-year-old female donkey. She has performed for 19 years as the trusty steed of Sancho Panza in the Mariinsky ballet's production of Don Quixote. "She loves to perform and she loves applause," said Tatyana Solomatina of the St. Petersburg zoo, where Monika lives between performances.

"She knew the exact time to appear in the ballet, even without someone accompanying her," Solomatina added. The troupe held a goodbye party for Monika, dancing with her and giving her gifts including carrot cake. Monika's role will be assumed by Alina, a younger, female donkey, Reuters reports.