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There are a number of reasons The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is one of the most iconic television shows of all time. The classic NBC series featured plenty of lovable characters and some downright hilarious running gags. One of these was the fan-favorite Carlton dance, which was skillfully performed by Alfonso Ribeiro. The beloved actor performed the dance countless times during the show’s six-season run, but Ribeiro has now shed light on the first time he ever performed it on set.
Many have tried to perform and replicate the Carlton dance, even Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star Will Smith. But to this day, Alfonso Ribeiro can perform it like no one else, and it’s become synonymous with him and his character. During a recent interview, Ribeiro explained that he added elements to the dance during the show’s run but that the main dance was established from the beginning:
It was pretty close to what it was. I mean, I added things as the years went on and added little pieces to it. But ultimately, like, the main dance was the dance right from the beginning. I had basically had seen that dance and played around with that dance a little bit before Fresh Prince even started. And so when it said Carlton dances in the script, I was kind of like, ‘Huh. What would it - what would this character do? Like, what would be the move?’ And the first time in rehearsal, it was like, all right, Carlton dances. What do you think you're going to do here? I was like, ‘I got it. I got it. Let's just do the scene.’
Alfonso Ribeiro has previously cited a few sources of inspiration for Carlton Bank’s signature dance. The two he’s most consistently mentioned are Eddie Murphy’s “White Man Dance” from his routine in 1987’s Raw and Courteney Cox’s routine in Bruce Sprigsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” music video. This may sound like a weird combination but, as Ribeiro further explained on NPR’s Ask Me Another Question, it definitely worked:
And so we started the scene, and then I broke out the dance, and everybody is on the floor crying laughing. And I was like, ‘I think we got it. I think this is the move we'll do.’ And so from - right from there, it maintained what we were doing, and they kept putting it back in the script. It was like, you know, every other week. I was like, ‘Can Carlton stop dancing?’
TV (and pop culture) history was certainly made that day. Not only was the dance hilarious, but it also solidified the fact that Alfonso Ribeiro was perfect for the role of Carlton Banks. And to think, the actor was actually disappointed with his original audition for the show.
We’ll always be grateful to Alfonso Ribeiro for his work on the show, and it’s likely fans will continue to emulate the Carlton dance for years to come. You can see more of Ribeiro’s work on the show by streaming The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on HBO Max, which you can sign up for using this link.