Former Miss York County is now a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader

Maria Yohn
York Dispatch
York County native Jennah Motter was recently made the cut to become a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader.

When Miss York County 2017 Jennah Motter turned in her crown, she knew she was going to miss the limelight.

She reluctantly returned to life in the background, teaching at Greater York Dance. Although she enjoyed her job sharing her love of dance with her students, she longed for the opportunity to perform in front of a crowd again, but she just didn't know how to find her way back there. 

Then, serendipitously, she came across an announcement in February seeking prospective dancers to try out for the Baltimore Ravens cheerleading team. Motter had a friend who performed as a stunt girl for the team, so she began toying with the idea.

"I was looking for an opportunity to perform again. What better thing than a stadium full of 70,000 people?" she said.

"It literally popped into my head on a Friday, and I was there Tuesday," Motter said.

If Motter had missed that announcement by a day, she wouldn't be what she is now: a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader.

Destined to dance: The 22-year-old York City resident had studied dance for 16 years and was homeschooled so she could pursue dance as a career.

Performing runs in her  blood, she said, as her older brother is a college gymnast and her younger sister danced and is now studying music.

Motter said she's loved dance as long as she can remember, and as an energetic young child, it gave her the perfect outlet to focus on goals, an ability that proved fruitful later in life.

Her mother, Meg Motter,  knew that her daughter was born to be a dancer.

She recalls Jennah twirling around the living room on New Year's Eve. At the time, Meg's friend turned to her and gave her a piece of prescient advice.

"She said, 'You must enroll this child in dance," Meg  Motter said.

"And the rest is history," she said. 

"She loves to dance. It's definitely her calling to dance on stage and to help other girls dance on stage," Meg Motter said.

Through the years, she's proudly watched her daughter set goals and achieve them, even when those goals required her to wear scant clothing.

"I've adjusted to the fact that she will be walking across a stage in a bikini," she said.

Becoming a dancer: Jennah Motter began her dance journey  at a studio in Hanover, and at the age of 15, she switched to Greater York Dance, located at 3524 E. Market St. in Springettsbury Township.

Lori Garling, artistic director at Greater York Dance, took notice of Jennah from the start.

The teen came to her as a  student who lacked confidence, but she soon bloomed in her abilities through hard work and determination, Garling said.

"She has a high-energy commitment to everything she does, and I'm sure the judges saw that," the director said.

Garling noted that Motter commits to every movement rather than going through the motions, which helped her hone her technique.

"Jennah figured that out at a young age, and she kept getting stronger," she said.

For Motter, the switch happened at a "prime time" in her career,  before any bad techniques became ingrained.

"It was a perfect time to switch," Garling said.

Jennah danced at GYD until she turned 18, and then she returned as a teacher. She  teaches all contemporary classes at the studio as well as ballet, jazz and early childhood classes. 

A ballerina by trade: Throughout her years of dance, Jennah has explored a number of styles, including salsa, hip hop and contemporary, she said.

"I definitely like trying new things," she said. 

But despite her experimentation with different genres of dance, she always saw herself principally in ballet.

"I'm a ballerina by trade," she said.

However, one discipline Jennah never tried would be surprising to most people: cheerleading.

Meg Motter explained that her daughter's acceptance as a cheerleader is a bit misleading.

The Baltimore Ravens cheerleading squad is divided into stunt performers and dancers. Stunt girls perform many of the difficult and often-dangerous jumps and tosses. Dancers are there to dance, and both take turns entertaining the crowd, Meg said. 

"Given that information, it made sense for her to audition with her dance background," she said.

Jennah Motter, shown here during the Baltimore Ravens cheerleading auditions at M&T Stadium.

The audition: Jennah Motter's drive to Baltimore to prepare for auditions  surprised and concerned her mother.

"It kind of came out of nowhere," she said. 

She was leery about her daughter's safety in making the trip to Baltimore alone but supported her new goal. 

Auditions were March 3-4, and each one consisted of a one-minute routine that the dancers had to learn almost on the spot, Jennah said. After she made the cut, she moved on to the interview round March 6. 

A few days after that, a list was posted, whittling down the more than 150 people who auditioned to a group of 60.

After a final audition later in March, Jennah Motter learned she was one of 16 dancers who made the team.

She immediately texted her mother, who wasn't surprised to learn that her daughter was chosen after hearing about her first audition.

"She was asked to help other girls who were struggling," Meg Motter said.

Jennah's teacher also was excited to hear about the success of her studio's hometown dancer.

"Everyone is so excited for her. We're all wearing purple," Garling said.

However, Jennah's mother was quick to note that Jennah, who  works for Bellomo and Associates in York as a Medicaid specialist, is more than a dancer.

"It's not as if all she does is dance. She is a leader," she said. 

As for Jennah, her career as a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader is only beginning;  she plans to audition each year for as long as she can, barring any potential injuries.

"I'm on a high, thinking I'm going to do this for the next 10 years," she said.