The History Of The Carlton Dance As Told By The Legend Himself, Alfonso Ribeiro

Here’s everything you need to know about the Carlton Dance. Hit it, Tom Jones.

Most dance crazes of the ’80s and ’90s were created with good intentions. And while that might seem impossible now, things like the Macarena, Vogue-dancing, and the Running Man — these were originally created to make you look cool. Of course, there’s one dance of the ’90s that is based in 100 percent pure dork. It is none other than the Carlton Dance — the signature move of Carlton Banks of The Fresh Prince — and it looks like this:

But, what most people don’t know, says Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor who played Carlton, is that it isn’t a completely random spasm of dad-dancing. BuzzFeed got the legend himself to tell us about the fabled Carlton Dance, and here’s the tale:

There was a video of Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox called Dancing in the Dark, and Bruce Springsteen pulls her up onto the stage and she basically does that dance.

And it was also from Eddie Murphy’s Delirious comedy video where he does “the white man dance.” And what I did was ultimately take those two dances and combined them and made it my own, and made it my character’s. But ultimately it’s “the white man dance.” So that’s where the dance kind of came from.

One of the reasons the Carlton Dance has become such a thing could be that everyone looks like an idiot doing it. And most of them aren’t even doing it right. Carlton himself will even tell you — you’re doing it wrong:

The biggest mistake is that [people] don’t understand…they don’t know what the dance is….the arms lead the body, then they always try to follow the arms. They just get it wrong.

Of course, The Fresh Prince also created another dance craze with the “Jump On It” routine, which has become a particular favorite at weddings when it’s time for that one ironic dance. Alfonso credits that dance as more of a group effort headed by Will Smith:

That was actually Will. Will came up with that one. We were there together, and the music came on, and you know, when you’re creating, you just kind of go with things. We both just kind of did it together. A lot of things come from just being on the set and clowning around and just having fun.

BTW, clowning around seems to be one of the best things about doing The Fresh Prince. There was one organized Carlton prank, where he ran through the entire set and audience.

We just went ahead, had some fun, and it ended up making the air. We never thought it was going to make the air.

 

One thing you might not know about Alfonso is that as a kid, he sold a book on breakdancing called Alfonso’s Breakin’ & Poppin’ Book. If you haven’t seen the 1985 commercial for the step-by-step guide, it’s worth a watch. The book is unfortunately out of print and not even Alfonso has one lying around. “I don’t have any of it,” he told us. “I wouldn’t even know where to get it.”

 

If you’re wondering what Carlton Banks is up to these days, he’s actually participating in a Klondike Bar (remember those?) campaign that looks to ’80s nostalgia with a funny take on breakdancing, which looks something like this:

21. But this will always be the best. America loves you, Alfonso Ribeiro.

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