Fresh Prince: Where The Carlton Dance Originally Came From

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air could become a series once more, leading a lot of people to get re-excited about the once-popular nineties comedy, including things like Will’s outrageous costumes and Carlton’s equally outrageous dance moves. Although Alfonso Ribeiro’s dance skills have lived on in infamy in the decades since Fresh Prince first aired, the actor recently spoke out to say the hilarious dance move was unintentional when he first did it on the show.

The Carlton Dance was created when it said in the script: “Carlton dances.” It was never even intended to be funny; it was just that he was dancing. The dance is ultimately Courteney Cox in the Bruce Springsteen video “Dancing in the Dark”; that’s the basis. Or in Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious” video, “The White Man Dance” as he called it. And I said, “That is the corniest dance on the planet that I know of, so why don’t I do that?

The end result was something so fantastically cornball and easy to appropriate that it became a funny running gag that could be copied by fans. It’s the sort of dance that even a young kid can get involved with.

The actor also revealed to Variety that his on-set character was not even remotely close to his real-life personality. It actually took some work to bring Carlton to life. Ribeiro would have to read up on his character between shoots, so he could learn more about who he was supposed to be on the show. He notes:

I didn’t know Barry Manilow. These weren’t people that I grew up with or experienced as a teenager. I grew up in the Bronx; I was a hip-hop kid.

Years later, Alfonso Ribeiro’s run on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has led to other opportunities, including a recent stint on Dancing with the Stars in 2014, during which Ribeiro actually won the coveted Mirrorball Trophy during Season 19. The actor didn’t rely on his famous dance move during his lengthy run on the competition series, but he did throw in the dance, elevating its quality a little bit, during one particularly vivid performance on the show.

Love it or hate it, the Carlton dance isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And if Fresh Prince of Bel-Air does end up getting that reboot we’ve been hearing about, something tells me there will eventually be a Carlton 2.0.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.