The secret origins of Alfonso Ribeiro’s “Carlton Dance” on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air star was inspired by two very different people.

Alfonso Ribeiro as Carlton Banks on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Alfonso Riberio as Carlton Banks. Only he may do the dance. Image NBC

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was something of an institution in the 1990s but the show’s success didn’t rest solely on the shoulders of Will Smith.

DJ Jazzy Jeff played a part, the late James Avery’s performance as Uncle Phil warrants mention while Karyn Parsons and later Tatyana Ali also get a nod as the Banks sisters, but for pure comedy value it did not get much better than Will’s pretentious cousin, Carlton.

Ably played by Alfonso Ribeiro, the role was a largely thankless task with Carlton usually on the receiving end of a fair few jokes revolving around his height, appearance and general demeanour.

But while Will may have had all the killer lines but as Carlton, Alfonso had one pretty special weapon in his comedic armoury – he could dance.

In time, the character became known for “The Carlton Dance”, usually to the tune of Tom Jones’s It’s Not Unusual.

A popular part of the show that is still discussed today, fans have often wondered where the idea for his demented moves came from.

The story goes that the unique moves were influenced by two very specific and distinctly people: Courteney Cox and Eddie Murphy.

Ribeiro has explained in the years since that the “Carlton Dance” was essentially a combination of Cox’s moves in the music video to Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark fused with a skit from Murphy’s stand-up focusing on how white people dance.

And when you see both the music promo and stand-up in isolation, it all starts to make sense.

In any case, the years that followed saw Ribeiro all but retire the Carlton Dance, having been asked to perform it on countless occasions.

There’s been a bit of a Carlton Dance renaissance in recent years though with Ribeiro rolling the moves out for appearances on The Graham Norton Show and Dancing with The Stars.

One thing is for sure: loaded will never tire of seeing it.

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