During a break in the physical aspects of rehearsal for an upcoming show at the Yard, a group of dancers and choreographers—Ishmael Houston-Jones, Sandy Broyard, Miko Matsushima, Shavon Norris, Mark Lord, Polly Motley, Amy Smith and David Brick—sat in a circle with their eyes closed. The door to the studio swung back and forth and outside the oak trees swayed high overhead. But inside the dancers remained still, huddling in a sort of spiritual reflection. Their ages ranged from mid 30s to 70s.

Then, all of a sudden, the group burst out laughing. The leader of the exercise, Ishmael Houston-Jones, had just cracked a joke.

Headlong Dance Theatre is based in Philadelphia but for Vineyard performance, cast is from all over the country. — Ray Ewing

Mr. Houston-Jones Ishmael is a downtown New York choreographer who recently won the Herb Alpert Award. Vineyarder Sandy Broyard runs the improvisational dance group, What’s Written Within, and David Brick and Amy Smith are founding members of the Headlong Dance Theater, based in Philadelphia and responsible for bringing this diverse group of dancers together. The group will perform at the Yard this Thursday and Saturday nights.

Mr. Brick said that the gathering together of so many talented people is both lucky and unexpected. The group has spent the last week together on the Vineyard creating a new piece from the inside-out which views mindfulness and the spiritual aspects of dance as more important than physical coherence and perfection.

Mr. Brick said that he hopes the performance inspires a strong sense of meaning for the audience. Rather than having the audience sit back, relax and enjoy the show, he wants the performance to ignite curiosity and guide viewers to a place just outside of their comfort zones. Just as optical illusions play tricks with light, these performers capture attention by altering viewers’ concepts of time and space.

Headlong started in 1993, by college friends Amy Smith, David Brick and Andrew Simonet and over the years has performed nationally and internationally. Since 2013, Amy and David have taken over full leadership and Andrew has moved onto to other pursuits.

Mindfulness over motion is a mantra. — Ray Ewing

The members of Headlong call themselves stylistic mutts. Mr. Brick explains that Headlong’s dance originated from a few different groups of dancers, including the “present postmodernists” of the 1960s who enjoyed movement for movement’s sake, and the German expressionist and choreographer Pina Bausch who collaborated with her performers, instead of maintaining a dance theater hierarchy. This was an idea that originally bonded the trifecta of Andrew, Amy and David.

“We all agreed that there should be no stratification between the choreographer, performers and audience,” Ms. Smith said.

On stage at the rehearsal, in addition to the dancers there was an assortment of props scattered about—a red wheelbarrow, rusty shovel, a spool of twine and some old metal rings. For a moment the dancers moved about the stage under a hazy yellow spotlight while Mr. Houston-Jones swung an eerie old lantern. Then Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream began playing and the dancers stopped moving. At the close of the song, the dancers all fell to the floor.

In a conversation after the rehearsal, Mr. Brick said that the Katy Perry song was an example of Headlong’s attempt to stop time’s conveyer belt for their audience. Messing with the beat is messing with what’s expected, he said.

The weight of creativity. — Ray Ewing

“Time is very funny in time based art, you can’t take time,” he said. “I feel like it creates a situation, combined with our cultural habits, if you just play with rhythm and time, where you can make anything interesting.”

“We’re hoping to get to a point where the audience is curious,” he added. “Instead of needing to have a pop song to hold their attention, they get excited by seeing these human beings. We’re trying to have enough to excite their senses.”

Mr. Brick hopes that viewers will leave with a greater appreciation for their environment and bodies, and that their notions of the every day beat is altered.

He said, “My hope is that people have a contemplative experience...that they walk out and say, ‘I see my world in a deeper, richer way.’”

Headlong Dance Theatre will perform Island at the Yard on Thursday, June 23, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 25, at 6:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit dancetheyard.org.