Staff Spotlight: Joan Severson

Joan Severson is an instructor at UW Health's Fitness CenterTai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. Due to its ever-growing collection of these health and fitness benefits, Tai Chi participation in the United States has grown to over 4 million participants.


Riding this growth wave the Sports Medicine Fitness Center has proudly offered Tai Chi classes for over 20 years.


From its modest beginnings as a single class taught by our initiator and advocate (Blair Mathews), our Tai Chi program has blossomed into 5 different offerings and dozens of enthusiastic participants. Driving this growth is our experienced and energetic instructor, Joan Severson.


Joan grew up on Madison’s near east side and graduated from East High School. After graduating she held a variety of jobs before becoming a founding member of a successful oldies rock and roll band which played regionally with Madison as its home base. The band remained her full time job for ten years.


It was after leaving the band that Joan was introduced to Blair Mathews’ Tai Chi class. She immediately made a connection and soon began assisting in teaching and then went on to get certified as a Tai Chi instructor.


Joan’s teaching certifications have expanded to include Tai Chi for Arthritis, Diabetes, and Tai Chi for Health and Tai Chi Fan. Joan also teaches the popular Tai Chi intro class here – giving true beginners a successful introductory experience to the practice.


In addition, Joan brings the Tai Chi experience into the water. Her Aqua Ai Chi (Ai Chi = “flowing aquatic energy”) here gets rave reviews from participants. Joan’s love of dance has also led her to create seasonal classes such as Aqua Dance and Aqua Zumba.


Having balanced her Tai chi training and teaching with a full time job for the past 20 years, Joan formally retired this past year. Lucky for us she has continued teaching classes here.


In addition to practicing Tai Chi, Joan’s hobbies include Qigong and learning “all things Integrative”. Joan enjoys gardening and has recently developed a passion for playing cards (Sheepshead is her favorite game).



A Q&A with Joan


Why Did You Choose to Become a Fitness Instructor?


For the love of movement and the process of learning.


What Do You Like About Working Here?


I’m surrounded by role models in and out of class, and I can truly say that all the years I’ve walked into this building, I’ve always left feeling better than when I came.


Hometown: Madison, WI.


Current Residence: Madison, Wisconsin.


Birthday: September.


Family: Husband Bob and daughter Chelsea.


Favorite Music: Love all kinds of music and dancing!


Favorite Colors: Red, orange, purple, lime green and bright pink. But let’s not forget black!


Favorite TV Shows: You don't want to know.


Favorite Movies: The first movie I remember seeing at a theater was Laurence of Arabia. That set the tone of expectation. Love epic films like The Last Emperor and anything that makes you take pause.


Favorite Foods: Spicy.


Favorite Vacation Spots (thus far): Lake Michigan.


Nicknames I've Had: Joni Poodles Vee.


Something Very Few People Know About Me That I'm Willing to Divulge Here: I always wanted to be Bucky Badger. No flips but a lot of dancing and carrying on.