Alfonso Ribeiro Shares The Carlton Dance Origin Story & It Was A Stroke Of Improv Genius
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air left a lot of iconic cultural landmarks in its wake after it went off the air in 1996, and if number one was its theme song, number two was definitely the Carlton Dance. You know the one. Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) gets pumped up when a Tom Jones tune comes on and really gets into the groove. In an interview with Variety about his recent success winning Season 19 of Dancing With the Stars, Ribeiro revealed just how the Carlton Dance came to be, and it was a stroke of improv genius.
Talking to Variety about filming the show, the 43-year-old revealed that the Carlton Dance wasn't even supposed to be a thing: "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."
Ribeiro improvised the enthusiastic, cheesy, arm-swinging dance move that would go down in history and that people still love and recognize today. And he got his inspiration from another huge '90s sitcom star:
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?"
Corny as it is, it's still lovable all these years later. The actor also talked about how playing Carlton was an exercise in completely immersive acting, because he grew up in the Bronx listening to hip-hop, worlds and worlds away from the affluent community of Beverly Hills where Carlton Banks tied his sweaters around his neck and listened to Tom Jones and Barry Manilow. In fact, Ribeiro said, he was given reading material and CDs to listen to to connect more with the snooty, precocious Carlton (who, deep down, was perfectly good-hearted).
To the delight of many fans, Will Smith is bringing The Fresh Prince back with a reboot, since those are the name of the game right now. The news is still barely a week old, so it's still up in the air whether Carlton will come back to reprise his famous dance moves, but here's hoping. Ribeiro loves busting out Carlton all the time, even now. He won Dancing With the Stars last season, and one of the moves that was famous for him on the show? That's right, the Carlton. His most recent reprise of the dance was at a celebrity golf tournament with Justin Timberlake. Carlton Banks: It's not unusual to love him.