so that's how that happened

Here’s How the Fresh Prince Carlton Dance Came to Be

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Ribeiro doing his dance. Photo: NBC/Getty Images

In this week’s Variety, there’s a piece in which Dancing With the Stars champ Alfonso Ribeiro shares his inspiration for the iconic “Carlton Dance” from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Ribeiro, who played Carlton Banks, explains that the dance was a manifestation of his character’s identity, which was far removed from Ribeiro himself. “They would have to bring me a CD and some articles for me to read up on what the character liked, because I had never heard of Tom Jones,” he says, noting his Bronx-hip-hop upbringing. “I didn’t know Barry Manilow. These weren’t people that I grew up with or experienced as a teenager.”

Ribeiro’s transformation into Carlton involved creating a believable, complex affectation, as well as mannerisms: He was at turns prudish, relatable, smug, sympathetic, naïve, highly intelligent, frustratingly dorky, and totally lovable. Ribeiro was tasked with creating a dance that ultimately fit that persona to a T.

He elaborates: “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?’” Yep, the rest was history:

How the Fresh Prince Carlton Dance Came to Be