ELKINS, W.Va. (WBOY) — A student and Highland Dancer at Davis & Elkins College got the chance of a lifetime to perform for the Queen of England just weeks before she died.
Gabby Pealer is a junior at D&E and was the only featured dancer performing with the Sons of Scotland Pipe Band of Ottawa, Canada—a bagpipe band that regularly performs for royals. Pealer was the only American in the group while they toured throughout Scotland.
One stop on the group’s tour was a private performance for Queen Elizabeth II. On Aug. 17, Pealer and Sons of Scotland performed at the royal family’s summer estate, Balmoral in Deeside as part of the Platinum Jubilee celebration for Elizabeth II’s 70th anniversary of her reign. Her majesty passed away just over three weeks later on Sept. 8 at the same estate.
“Each of us in the group, musician, dancer, or guest, has a mixture of excitement and nervousness for our performance,” Pealer said via Messenger the day before her performance. “I could not be more happy to represent my country as the one American citizen and featured dancer in this tour. My band mates have created the best atmosphere I could hope for, and we all feel like family in our residential flats. Although tomorrow presents our greatest performance yet, I feel peaceful. With over 160 performers and guests to be hidden on the lawn of Balmoral Castle, and a private reception in the adjacent cottage for performers to meet royals currently staying at the castle, it will be a venue not soon forgotten.”
A longtime member of the West Virginia Highland Dancers, the Elkins native joined the D&E troupe in 2020. She dances at the premier/championship level and last year earned her Highland Dance Teaching Certification. In July, Pealer received her first championship with a sixth-place finish in the Sailor’s Hornpipe at the 2022 ScotDance Championships in Madison, Wisconsin.
When D&E leaders learned of her invitation, they were eager to sponsor her trip.
“Gabby has worked incredibly hard on her dancing and she is so deserving of this amazing opportunity,” said Katy Dillon, advisor to the Davis & Elkins College Highland Dancers and Pealer’s mentor for several years.
Pealer did miss the first week of classes at D&E for the performance, but the release from the college said it was with good reason.