When it comes to dance moves on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, nothing tops the Carlton dance. It’s still imitated to this day, thanks to Carlton himself Alfonso Ribeiro. It was so popular that even the show’s star Will Smith once wanted a piece of the action, but Ribeiro wouldn’t let him in on the secret sauce. Now, the Fresh Prince alum has spoken on the time he refused to help Smith with the iconic dance.
Carlton Banks and his dance helped solidified The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’s place in pop culture. So having Alfonso Ribeiro and Will Smith do the dance together in the series finale was a massive moment. But Smith didn't nail it as well as his co-star did, and Ribeiro wasn't too keen on helping him. When chatting with Yahoo! Entertainment about his refusal to teach Smith his signature dance, the actor said:
My goal was to let him look bad. "If he had perfected it, it might have been The Will, and we couldn't have that!
Alfonso Ribeiro may seem hilariously petty for not helping out, but you can't really argue with his logic. Ribeiro wanted the Carlton dance to be his considering Will Smith was the star of The Fresh Prince. Had Smith landed the dance perfectly, it might have slightly taken away from something that was always linked to Carlton. But it wouldn’t have hurt for Ribeiro to maybe teach his co-star a watered-down version -- you know, to balance things out.
As mentioned in the Yahoo! article, Will Smith revealed in last year’s Fresh Prince Reunion that he could never master the Carlton dance, so way that the moment between Will and Carlton in the series finale played out makes even more sense. Alfonso Ribeiro went full throttle, while Smith stopped after the initial steps.
But looking back on the NBC sitcom, Alfonso Ribeiro didn’t have anything to worry about. While Will Smith was the star, it was Carlton who got the big laughs. Whether it was the dance his mannerisms or preppy ways, Ribeiro always managed to steal any scene he was in, despite starting out with a rough audition. Being on other classic sitcoms such as Silver Spoons and A Different World seemed to hone his comedic timing and sensibility. To be honest, fans came for the Fresh Prince but stayed for Carlton Banks and his antics.
But there’s no love lost between the former co-stars. 25 years after The Fresh Prince ended, Will Smith and Alfonso Ribeiro have remained tight. I mean only a few years ago the two reprised their iconic Apache (Jump on It) dance from the “Viva Lost Wages” episode. So even though Ribeiro never taught Smith the Carlton, it didn’t stop them from sharing other special moments.
As far as '90s pop culture goes, the Carlton dance will always hold a special place in viewers’ hearts, and we should be grateful that Alfonso Ribeiro really embraced the iconic character. But if you want to see the actor go all in, you can stream The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on HBO Max.