Eugene Von Grona, was a German professional dancer and choreographer. He was born in Berlin. As a child he visited the United States quite frequently, where he became enamored with the cakewalk and minstrel shows. By the 1920s he finally made his move to the United States with his wife Leni Bouvier. Both dancers, they were fascinated by the new artistic innovations of the Harlem Renaissance. He enjoyed the sounds of Duke Ellington and other ragtime favorites. Von Grona began dancing and directing ballets at the Roxy Theatre in 1935.
Quickly he was confronted with racial boundaries, as many American theaters were segregated by law or custom. Performing opportunities were extremely limited to black dancers, and many ballet studios would not accept black students. He decided that the dancers at Roxy were too light and stated, "I want them black, black, all Negro.