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The Best Dance Formation Apps

  • Bhangra
The Best Dance Formation Apps Cover

As the new competitive season is about to take hold, I figured now is a better time than any to get on my soap box and tell everyone how they’re all wrong and what they should do instead.

Lol in all honesty, I always find all these new softwares and tools and I become enthralled by them. So much so I just want to tell everyone I know about them and geek out over it. Since all my friends are thoroughly over listening to my rants, I figured I can share it with the rest of you.

For some reason there isn’t an easily recommendable formation app out there. It’s a huge market. Professional dance teams, cheerleading, marching bands, desi dance teams, the list goes on. If you look at my tier list for this post, there’s no A or S tier apps. There’s no single formation app that truly satisfies all the boxes. Easy to share, synced to music, animated formations, 3D and 2D views, simple to make formations, simple to view formations on all mobile devices with music attached, and a desktop app to make formations on a larger screen. Every formation app has a compromise. I tried and paid for every formation app I could get my hands on so you don’t have to.


The Best Dance Formation Apps Tier List
The Best Dance Formation Apps Tier List

B Tier – ArrangeUs and ChoreoRoom

ArrangeUs

Pro

  • Easy to make and edit formations
  • Animated formations
  • Easy to share
  • Music sync (paid)

Con

  • Only iPhone
  • Music not added to shared file

ChoreoRoom

Pro

  • Easy to make and edit formations
  • Animated formations
  • Easy to share
  • Free

Con

  • No music sync
  • Only iPhone

Ease of Making Formations – ChoreoRoom and Arrange Us are the best formation apps that I’ve been able to find. Making the formations is as intuitive as it gets. Tap and drag to move dots around, slide the formations around on the timeline to sync to music, they work like you think it should work. The only big difference between the two apps is that Arrange Us costs $2.99 per month to add music and ChoreoRoom is 99 cents but doesn’t allow music syncing.

Ease of Viewing Formations – Sharing the formation files is fairly intuitive. There’s a share button within the app for each formation that allows you to text, email, AirDrop, etc the formations to whoever. If the receiving person has the app, if they try to open the app, the file will open in Arrange Us and ChoreoRoom. Once the viewer opens the formation they can play and view the formation like you’d expect. The only nuisance is that in Arrange Us, when you share formations the music file doesn’t go along with it.

My Take – You can’t go wrong with either of these formation apps. There are a few gripes I have with both hence why I won’t give either an A tier. I wish there was a web or desktop version so I can make formations on something larger than an iPhone. I also would like to see some method that’d make it easier to share the music. You could just screen record the app with the music on one person’s phone and then just send the video file to everyone else, but it’d be nice to just share the file with the music.

ArrangeUs
ChoreoRoom

C Tier – Notability, Paper and Pencil, DanceApp

Notability, Paper and Pencil

Pro

  • Simple to use
  • Relatively easy to edit
  • Easy to share pictures

Con

  • Free
  • Syncing to music requires a video software

Notability, pictures of dots on a whiteboard, paper and pencil, Powerpoint combined with iMovie or some basic movie editing software. They’re all more or less the same thing for what I’m describing.

Although very simple, this is the method I’d recommend most people use when communicating to other dancers. Easy to make, easy to share, easy to view, easy to understand. It’s bit of work on the person making the formation but great for the end viewer. You can just take the static images and sync them up to music in the video software. Draw arrows when you want people to move and nothing when they stay in place. It’s a bitch to put together but it works. Here’s an example of some I’ve made with FCB (First Class Bhangra).

Here’s an example of what formation with Notability and iMovie can look like

I like Notability specifically because you can drag the dots around and there’s something nice about being able to just quickly copy and paste the last formation and then just start moving dots around rather than having to draw them over and over again on pencil and paper.

Here are the templates I use to make formations on, feel free to use them for yourself.

12 person template
16 person template
20 person template

Danceapp

Danceapp.us is a web app developed by some former DRP (Da Real Punjabiz) dancers back around 2016 and was quickly adopted by a lot of the circuit. It allowed you to move humanoid figures around a stage that would transition from one place to another. I would gladly recommend this app to any choreographer making formations trying out a bunch of ideas to see what can work. What I wouldn’t be 1000% comfortable with is recommending this app to communicate formations to dancers during practice.

Pro

  • 3D viewing lets you see formations from multiple angles
  • Animated formations
  • Easy to share formations with others for collaboration
  • Free

Con

  • Hard to use on a mobile device
  • Unable to sync music
  • Random bugs can be frustrating at times
  • No new features or updates in the foreseeable future

Ease of Making Formations

This web app is great for illustrating formations so that your dancers can understand what’s going on. You can visualize the movements, you can change the position of the viewer so you can put yourself in the shoes of the judges and see what they would see. Main downsides is that you can’t sync up music easily. There are some work arounds where you dub music over it in iMovie but that’s also huge pain because if you’re 1 beat off in the app or if your computer decides to start lagging while playing (which happens a ton) then you gotta start all over.

This app is most helpful when you’re actually creating formations. It helps you visualize the movement, see what works and what doesn’t, and easily create multiple variations of the formations.

Ease of Viewing Formations 

What it’s not so great at is communicating to the rest of the team where to go when because it depends on counts. If there was a notepad to add notes for all the formations it’d be nice, but you can’t even title each formation square so it’s hard to tell what move you’re moving and when you’re not.

Sharing formations is pretty simple, all they have to do is send the link to the saved formation. It is barely usable on a phone but you can sometimes make it work.

danceapp.us

D Tier – Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects

Pro

  • Synced to music
  • Animated formations
  • easy to share and view once uploaded to YouTube

Con

  • You have to pay for Adobe Creative Suite
  • High learning curve
  • Time intensive

Ease of Making Formations

This is by far the most effort intensive on the person making formations. If you know someone that knows how to use after effects, they can probably crank out a 1 min segment in about 15-30 minutes depending on the complexity of the formation. You essentially have to animate each dot individually. Having to teach after effects to myself back in the day and then making them, it was a god damn pain. If I had to make them now, it wouldn’t be so bad.

Ease of Viewing Formations 

You just send dancers the youtube link and they’d be able to understand when they need to move, where they need to move with absolute clarity. That being said, if your dancers are anything like the dancers I’ve worked with, they’re idiots and don’t actually watch the videos. Spending 30 minutes animating a complex 45 second segment just to see 8 views on the formation video is some of the most disheartening things ever. Work smarter not harder and don’t use this unless you’re a Adobe

It’s a ton of work, but it doesn’t look bad

F Tier – Danceboards, StageKeep

DanceBoards

Danceboards is an iPhone app that became available during the pandemic that works as a digital formation maker that syncs the formations to music. The app was a huge hit on the DDN Facebook group and for good reason. There hadn’t been a consistently good software that was marketed towards the desi dance community. Even though this app has potential, it doesn’t quite clinch the market either.

Pro

  • Animated formations
  • Synced to music
  • 3D view
  • Free

Con

  • Too buggy to actually use
  • Syncing music with formations is difficult
  • Only iPhone

Ease of Making Formations 

The biggest issue that prevents me from recommending the app is that it’s just too buggy to practically use. The app is developed as an iPhone app with no web or desktop based alternative meaning you’re going to be using a tiny screen to drag tiny dots around. However, I tried messing around with it on my iPad which just expanded the iPhone screen, but that didn’t solve all the issues. Here’s a few of the frustrating bugs I found.

  • Adding music to the formations is unintuitive. It’s not clear when you’re scrubbing through and adding music to each ‘board’ how much you’re adding. For example, let’s say you make board 1, board 2, and board 3. If you start adding music to all 3 then delete board 2 and make a new board to replace it. The app only lets you add music from the place board 3 ends. I could say many things about the adding music on to formations, but it’s a huge pain.
  • You can’t move around formation boards, so if you mess up on board 2 and delete it to make a new one. You won’t be able to move it to board 2’s position.
  • If you drag a dancer off a board, there’s no off stage section for you to bring them back on. Essentially requiring you to start the whole formation over.
  • You can only play the music with the formation animations if you start from the very beginning. So let’s say you only want to play board 5-10, you have to play the entire song

You can’t edit the formations in the 3D view

Ease of Viewing Formations 

If you’re tech savvy and willing to mess with it and get it working on your phone. But I know just getting my team to switch from GroupMe to Slack or attempting to get them to use Frame.io was a nightmare because people “didn’t know how it worked”. I wanted to punch those idiots in the face for their inability to try or do anything. I would like to save you the frustrating agony I felt there when trying to get an entire team of people to share formations with this software.

Those are just a few of the bugs I found when messing around with the app for a few days and there are probably more. That being said, this app is a fantastic skeleton that just needs some TLC. If it gets debugged a bit and gets a more intuitive way to add music I would instantly sing its praises to everyone I know. Until then, the app is just not stable enough to recommend to anyone.

You’re probably seeing a theme with the format for these apps

Stagekeep

Pro

  • Animated formations
  • Synced to music
  • Desktop version

Con

  • Too many bugs to consistently use
  • Buggy sharing process difficult to use
  • Adding music on a mobile device is difficult
  • Subscription fee
  • Lackluster support

This was a software I got super excited by 2 years ago when they were getting started. But still too buggy to recommend when you have to pay to use it. Its interface is a bit more visually intuitive to make formations than DanceBoards and more or less works similarly to DanceBoards. But sharing formations with other dancers is still a nightmare because they have to make an account, manually add their account to the formation, hope the accounts communicated and the formation shows up on their device, goodness. Don’t let the flashy, polished promo fool you, it doesn’t actually work.

Also since they haven’t posted on Instagram for over a year now, I doubt there’s any support for the app now. Your formation practice will end up being a 2 hour tech support session rather than actually dancing.

It does look fancy doesn’t it?

Disagree with my tier list? Lemme know in the comments.

For more blogs about softwares to use check them out here

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